The title race and the nervy knockout stage dictate most of the narratives in the Indian Super League, other than some sporadic goals or saves or performances that stay in the fans’ minds for a long time.
But every season, as the ISL begins, there is a strong interest in the performance of the Indian players, especially the young, budding ones. It is driven by the average Indian football fan’s desperation to see a top Indian talent emerge and make it big far beyond the Indian shores.
The chances of Indian player performing well will be slightly higher in the upcoming season as the ISL has implemented AFC’s 3+1 rule for foreign players that will see an extra Indian player on the pitch for all the teams.
Ahead of the new season, here’s a look at five promising Indian footballers who have the potential to step up and be consistent performers at the top level.
Devendra Murgaonkar (FC Goa)
The 22-year-old forward already has a season with FC Goa under his belt and his impressive performances in the AFC Champions League caught the fans’ interest. He took it a step ahead from there becoming the top scorer in the Durand Cup. With just four foreign players allowed in the teams from next season, expect greater things from Murgaonkar.
Will we see the rise of an Indian goalscorer? Only time will tell, but Murgaonkar certainly has the potential.
Leon Augustine (Bengaluru FC)
At Bengaluru FC since 2017, Augustine has had precious few chances to impress at the senior level. His talent has been evident in the 11 appearances he has made for the Blues but with three goals in the 2021 Durand Cup, Augustine made his case for more game time in the upcoming ISL season. The Kerala-born forward can also play as a winger which increases his chances of featuring in the Bengaluru FC line-up.
He has loads of potential and with the likes of Sunil Chhetri alongside him, Augustine could flourish if given the opportunities.
Kiyan Giri (ATK Mohun Bagan)
A graduate of the Mohun Bagan academy, Giri made his first outing for ATK Mohun Bagan colours in the AFC Cup match against FC Nasaf, albeit for just two minutes.
The result didn’t go Mariners’ way, but Giri would have got the taste of the high-level competitive action. Son of former East Bengal legend Jamshid Nassiri, young Giri will attract plenty of attention among the Kolkata football faithful.
It remains to be seen if he can perform in the spotlight, but with plenty of attacking talent in the ATK Mohun Bagan line-up, he can get to learn a lot and probably impress in cameos during the season. One thing is for certain that like his father, he has the talent to make it very big in Indian football.
Gurkirat Singh (Mumbai City FC)
Signed from the Indian Arrows, Singh is the kind of versatile player that coach Des Buckingham would love to have in his squad.
Singh has been one of the more consistent players for the Indian Arrows in the I-League and can play as a left winger or a left-back. He was also part of the Indian U-16 team that reached the quarter-finals at the 2018 AFC U-16 Championships and was the top scorer at the 2019 SAFF U-19 Championships.
A goal threat from the flanks? Mumbai City FC fans are certain to see a lot more of him in the upcoming season and the neat future.
Mohammed Nemil (FC Goa)
Nemil turned heads at the Durand Cup with his silky skills and eye for goals. Finishing as the joint second-highest goalscorer in the competition, the 19-year-old is being tipped as the next Indian superstar.
While there is a long way to go for Nemil to live up to the hype, the Goa forward has been a consistent performer at junior level with Reliance Foundation Young Champs, scoring 45 goals and 31 assists across various competitions for the team.
FC Goa have had the reputation of thrusting youngsters into the mix and allowing them to flourish. Indian football fans can be allowed to get excited at the prospect of watching this young starlet do his bit on the ISL stage.
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