Indian Super League: Kerala Blasters' all-time best XI
Kerala Blasters is one of the few teams that were part of the inaugural season of the Indian Super League (ISL), yet to lift the prestigious trophy. The club owners are desperate to win the league as is evident in the hiring and firing of nine different managers in just six seasons of the competition.
The Manjappada did reach the final in the 2016 edition of the ISL, and the semi-final in the inaugural edition. But the team has not managed to reach the knockout stages since the league was expanded to a 10-team competition in 2017-18.
Apart from the managers, several players have been signed and subsequently released to suit their 'evolving' playing style over the years. Steve Coppell will manage the team, given that he is the club's most successful manager, having taken the Blasters to the final of the 2016 edition of the ISL.
On that note, considering 4 defenders, 4 midfielders, 2 strikers, and a goalkeeper, let us have a look at the all-time best XI of the Blasters.
The former Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, and Churchill Brothers No.1 is the longest-serving goalkeeper for the Kerala-based side. With foreign keepers ruling the roost at the club for the first three years, Nandy was the second-choice keeper but always impressed whenever given a chance.
The 45-year old kept eight clean sheets in 18 matches, conceding only 15 goals in the process. Nandy is currently serving as the goalkeeping coach for another ISL club, NorthEast United.
Right-Back: Mohammad Rakip
The 19-year old Mohammad Rakip has been a revelation at right-back after impressing for Kerala Blasters II in the I-League second division.
David James handed Rakip his debut at the start of the 2018-19 season. Since then, the teenager has made the right-back position his own, collecting only one yellow card in 25 ISL games.
Centre-Back: Cedric Hengbart
Capable of also playing at right-back, Cedric Hengbart usually turned out for the Blasters in the centre of their defence. He played for the Blasters in 2014 and 2016, sandwiched by a season in which he turned up for NorthEast United.
After missing the deciding penalty in 2016 ISL final, the Frenchman signed for Maltese club Mosta before retiring and taking up a coaching role at Caen.
Centre-Back: Sandesh Jhingan (Captain)
Starting with Kerala Blasters as a promising 21-year old defender, Sandesh Jhingan has proved his mettle over the years. Jhingan held the record of most appearances in the league till the start of the 2019-20 season which he missed entirely due to injury.
Making 76 ISL appearances for the Blasters, Jhingan has solidified his position in the club, and also in the national team over the past few years.
Left-Back: Josu Prieto
In the 2015 season, Peter Taylor and Terry Phelan opted to play Josu in midfield, but the Spanish utility player was subsequently shifted to left-back by Steve Coppell in 2016.
Making 11 appearances in midfield, Josu provided four assists and scored a goal as well. In the 2016 season, the 27-year old made 14 appearances, helping Coppell shore up the defence as Kerala made it to the final of the ISL.
Right Midfielder: CK Vineeth
A Kerala boy at heart, CK Vineeth was a fan favorite amongst the Yellow Army during his time with the Blasters. In 43 appearances, he scored 11 goals and contributed three assists, playing in a variety of positions for the club.
The 31-year old was the top scorer in the 2016 season when Kerala ended up as the runners-up. However, in the next few seasons, Vineeth failed to retain a starting spot in the team, and subsequently got loaned out to Chennaiyin FC.
Currently, Vineeth plays for Jamshedpur FC.
Central Midfielder: Mehtab Hossain
The first player drafted by Kerala Blasters before the 2014 season, Mehtab Hossain, whenever fit, was an automatic starter irrespective of the manager in charge. He has played under four different managers and turned out 38 times for the club, starting all of those games.
A lynchpin in midfield, Hossain holds together the Blasters midfield, and provides a stout shield to the defence behind him.
Central Midfielder: Sahal Abdul Samad
David James handed Sahal Abdul Samad his Indian Super League debut, after the 23-year old impressed for Kerala Blasters II in the I-League second division. Since then, the creative midfielder won the ISL Emerging Player of the Year award in 2018-19. Samad has also solidified his position in the national team as a critical player.
In 37 ISL appearances, 23 of them in the starting XI, the gifted central midfield player has scored one goal and contributed three assists.
Left Midfielder: Raphael Messi Bouli
In his debut season in 2019-20, the Cameroonian midfielder scored eight goals and contributed two assists in 17 ISL games.
The 27-year old is in high demand and Kerala Blasters will be hoping to keep him at the club for the next few seasons.
Centre Forward: Iain Hume
The first player to score an ISL hat-trick for Kerala Blasters, Iain Hume scored ten goals and three assists in 28 appearances.
The Canadian forward is the only player to score three hattricks in the Indian Super League.
Centre Forward: Bartholomew Ogbeche
With Sandesh Jhingan injured, Bartholomew Ogbeche was given the captaincy of the club for the 2019-20 season.
The Nigerian striker led from the front, scoring 15 goals and providing a solitary goal in 16 games. The 35-year old has adapted to Indian football like a fish to water, and would be hoping for a couple of excellent seasons ahead.