ISL: 5 players who regret joining Kerala Blasters
Kerala Blasters have become one of the most-followed clubs in Indian football in a very short time. The fans have backed the team through all ups and downs, including two heartbreaking final defeats in 2014 and 2016.
The club is also known for their constant shuffle of personnel which is reflected by the appointment of eight different managers in six seasons. The changes at the helm directly lead to a revamp of the squad, making the Blasters one of the proactive presences in the transfer market.
While a number of players, ranging from Sandesh Jhingan to Jessel Carneiro, have developed their career wearing the yellow, not all players have had the same fate. Disappointing performances on the field and even misalignment with the management have resulted in players leaving Kochi with forgettable memories.
#5 Carlos Marchena
Carlos Marchena, 2010 FIFA World Cup winner with Spain, joined Kerala Blasters as a marquee signing in 2015. At the time, marquee players, may be due to their high pay bills, were the leaders on the field in the growing league, and had the responsibility of inspiring the young players.
However, the Spaniard failed to tick any of these objectives as he came in with an injury. The former Valencia man missed the first three games in the league that season before making his first appearance for the Blasters against Delhi Dynamos. Marchena was substituted a few minutes into the second half, marking his end of the campaign with the Kochi-based outfit.
The Spaniard left the club after a few weeks, citing personal reasons, and retired from the game in January 2016. The 40-year-old is currently the assistant manager of Sevilla FC's reserve team.
#4 Michael Chopra
After a 15-year-long career in various tiers of English football, Michael Chopra came to India as a reputed Indian origin player. With the experience of representing famous clubs like Newcastle United, Watford, and Sunderland, it was natural to expect a stellar outing from him when he signed for the Blasters in 2014.
But, the fans were in for a massive disappointment as the forward couldn't score a single goal from the nine matches he played in 2014. After a season in Scotland, he returned to Kerala for another stint in 2016 for another season of disappointment. In 10 games that season, Chopra scored a lone goal from a below-par total of seven shots.
Though the club reached the ISL final in both the seasons Chopra played in, the English striker's minimal contributions did not go unnoticed.
#3 Jairo Rodrigues
The latest player who parted ways with Kerala Blasters, not on the best of terms, is Brazilian defender Jairo Rodrigues. The 27-year-old, one of two foreign centre-backs signed by the Blasters before the 2019-20 season, played every minute of the first three games.
However, in the third minute of the fourth game, Rodrigues pulled a muscle and had to be taken off immediately. Two weeks later, the club released a statement that the player was out for a long period, and the club are looking for a replacement. In a contradictory statement though, Jairo took to social media to announce that he will be fit in two weeks, and will not leave Kochi.
It was later known that the player had a meniscus injury along with the hamstring pull that would have kept him out for a long duration. Though the Blasters faithful were in support of the defender for his commitment towards the club, he was eventually replaced by Vlatko Drobarov.
#2 Mark Sifneos
Kerala Blasters, under Rene Meulensteen, signed Mark Sifneos for the 2017/18 season as a young goal-scoring option. The striker did impress with four goals in 12 games but was not the first choice after David James took charge following Meulensteen's sack.
Eventually, both parties agreed to part ways in January 2018. The Dutchman was about to return home when FC Goa signed him in the winter transfer window. After making an appearance for the Gaurs, Sifneos' former employers complained to the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) that his visa could be used only to play for Kerala Blasters.
The striker then left India to apply for a new visa, and returned a few days later to feature in four games as a second-half substitute. A rift with the Blasters management that took things out of the field was enough for Sifenos not to return to India after that season.
#1 Dimitar Berbatov
Another player from the 2017/18 edition who did not have the best of spells in Kerala was Bulgarian legend Dimitar Berbatov. The signing of Berbatov grabbed a lot of attention and, naturally, a lot was expected from the former Manchester United man.
However, an injury in the early phase of the league, and the exit of Rene Meulensteen midway through the season hindered the player's game-time at Blasters. Berbatov was clearly not David James' favourite, as is evident in the Bulgarian playing only four games after the Englishman took charge.
While the primary reason cited for Berbatov's absence was an injury, there were rumours of a conflict within the club. The fans too backed their manager over the player, and Berbatov's season came to an end after just one goal from nine games.
It didn't take too long for the player to open up on the rift, though, as he set off a controversy with an Instagram story, a day after the last league game. The 39-year-old came up with "Worst wannabe coach ever" and "Chip the ball to the striker's chest and we take it from there" tags to ridicule the manager's tactics.
While the conflict had parties on both sides, it still remains one of the worst player-manager feuds in Kerala Blasters' history.