Sportskeeda continues its the review of the past year in Indian football. Today we pay tribute to the three best foreigner players in 2012.
Ranti Martins (Clubs: Dempo, Prayag United)
The Nigerian goal machine finished as the top scorer for the second straight season by netting 32 goals in the 2011-12 season to inspire Dempo to their record fifth Indian title. At times, Ranti’s power and clinical finishing single-handedly took Dempo to the I-League crown like the four goals against local rivals Sporting Clube. But his eight-year alliance with Dempo ended in the summer as he signed a lucrative deal with high spenders Prayag United. Ranti was the biggest name of Prayag’s ambitious project but poor ground conditions in Jamshedpur prevented him from producing his best as his new club crashed out from the Federation Cup. Prayag have been inconsistent in the I-League but Ranti has continued his amazing goal scoring exploits by scoring 14 goals already which includes five goals in one match against I-League debutants United Sikkim.
Uga Okpara (Club: East Bengal)
East Bengal still remind themselves of what might have been had Subhas Bhowmick started Uga Okpara on October 25, 2009, when they lost to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan 5-3. Okpara made his debut after that match and has been indispensable to the team ever since, with the red-and-gold brigade having a significantly better winning percentage with the Nigerian central defender in the side. 2012 has been another fantastic year for Okpara as he has been consistent in every competition and is the main reason behind East Bengal’s impressive defensive record. Okpara is a real leader and although he sometimes tends to lose his temper like any big centre half, the Nigerian has been the best defender in the I-League for the last 18 months. East Bengal have conceded just twice in the I-League with Okpara in the side and if the Nigerian stays fit and available, the Kolkata club have a great chance of winning the title.
Beto (Club: Churchill Brothers)
The Brazilian hasn’t been able to enjoy the success that he had with Dempo but Beto has been consistent and possibly Churchill’s best player since joining them in 2011. 2012 was another fruitful year for the Brazilian playmaker as he has contributed with several goals, assists, key passes and above all, has been Churchill’s talisman. He finished the 2011-12 season with nine goals but has already equalled that tally this season with Churchill Brothers looking one of the serious contenders for the title. Churchill have also played some of the best attacking football this term and Beto has been their central figure as his creativity has got the best out of the strikers. His impressive displays inspired them to the Federation Cup semis, where they were only beaten by East Bengal after extra time. Besides the I-League title and the target of 20 goals, Beto also has the AFC Cup to look forward to in 2013.
Winner: Ranti Martins
Consistency sees Ranti beat his compatriot Uga Okpara and former teammate Beto. While Okpara’s indiscipline has sometimes let East Bengal down and Beto has gone missing in a couple of big games like the Federation Cup semi-final, Ranti has been scoring whenever his team has needed him the most, both at Dempo and Prayag. Ranti not only scores for fun against the weaker teams but also produces the goods in big games like his winner against East Bengal recently. He is hot favourite to finish as the I-League highest scorer for the third straight season.