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The 2020/21 Indian Super League (ISL) promises to be one of the most intriguing campaigns yet, as more players from overseas look to the ISL as an opportunity to reboot or elongate their careers. This season will be unlike any other ISL year given that it will be played without the fervent support of the Indian fans, with all matches currently due to be played across three stadia in Goa.
The restrictions on match locations has not stopped many of the leading ISL teams from rebuilding and strengthening their squads ahead of the new campaign in mid-November. Let’s take a look at six of the best acquisitions so far, who could set the league alight in Goa.
Adam Le Fondre
Adam Le Fondre is best known for his time in the English Championship with Reading. He helped the Royals to the 2011/12 Championship title and was named 2012/13 Reading FC Player of the Season in his debut year in the EPL. Presently, Reading are back in the second tier, with the Berkshire side nowhere near at the top of the Championship futures promotion contenders with regulated US sports betting sites like FOX Bet, as newly relegated Bournemouth and Watford are unsurprisingly favoured. Elsewhere in Le Fondre’s career he has been a success too. He scored 19 times in 25 appearances last season for A-League outfit Sydney FC and has moved to Mumbai City FC on-loan from Sydney for the final year of his contract down under. He is an out-and-out poacher and a constant menace for central defenders.
34-year-old central defender Steven Taylor was a stalwart of the Newcastle United defence for 13 seasons. The fact he only made 215 appearances during that time was due largely to a string of injury-hit campaigns, which prevented him from becoming a leading Premier League centre back. A brief sojourn into the A-League with Wellington Phoenix caught the eye of Odisha FC scouts, who snapped him up for 2020/21 to improve a porous Odisha backline. Last term, Odisha shipped 31 goals and narrowly missed out on the playoffs by three points, so a watertight defence will help them go one better.
Experienced Spanish midfielder Vicente Gomez has played the vast majority of his professional career in La Liga and Spain’s Segunda Division. After 223 games for Las Palmas, he spent the last two seasons as the midfield anchor for Deportivo La Coruna, another iconic side in Spanish football. It’s therefore something of a coup for the Kerala Blasters to entice the 32-year-old to India for 2020/21. The Blasters have a contingent of young homegrown talent, with Gomez a sensible signing to help guide them through. It’s the same in the Indian Premier League (IPL) where overseas players have managed to help uncapped Indians shine bright in recent years.
Highly experienced defender Peter Hartley knows his way around the leagues of Britain. He’s played at League One and League Two and National League level in England and in the Scottish Premier League for Motherwell during the last two seasons. At 32, he is another elder statesman that Jamshedpur will be able to hang their hat on this coming season. It’s the first time that Hartley has played abroad but the Hartlepool-born stopper, who came through the Sunderland youth academy, should be able to make an impression at ISL level.
Former Premier League winger Anthony Pilkington is one of the latest additions to the ISL, with the 32-year-old agreeing a switch to East Bengal. He becomes the second overseas addition to the East Bengal roster, following the arrival of Scott Neville. Pilkington, who racked up over 400 senior appearances in English football and scored 83 goals, has the potential to be a major goal threat in the ISL with his direct wing play. Keeping fit will be his major focus and he will also be keen to put behind him the disappointment of being part of Wigan Athletic’s undeserved relegation from the 2019/20 Championship.
Gary Hooper was a former team-mate of Anthony Pilkington at Norwich City. Hooper will also be playing in the ISL this coming year, after signing from A-League side Wellington Phoenix. Hooper shot to prominence with Scunthorpe United in League One, earning himself a life-changing switch to Glasgow Celtic in 2010. After 63 goals in 95 appearances for the Hoops, he returned to English football with Premier League Norwich City. His time at Carrow Road was not quite so successful, but since then he has continued to find the net for the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and, latterly, Wellington. The ISL should see a hot contest between Adam Le Fondre and Gary Hooper for the competition’s golden boot.