Sportskeeda continues to review the past year in Indian football and today we pay tribute to the three best Indian players of 2012. And for this category we ask YOU, the readers to vote for the winner. The results will be announced on December 31st.
Lenny Rodrigues (Churchill Brothers)
The central midfielder’s stock had risen considerably in 2011, when he was one of the nominees for ‘FPAI Young Player of the Year Award’ and made it to the ‘FPAI Team of the Year’. And the 24-year-old took his game to another level this calendar year, being ever present for club and country in central midfield. Lenny doesn’t score goals and very rarely gets direct assists, so he is often the unsung hero of the team as he has to do the dirty work of making tackles in midfield, regaining possession and then building up play. But this Arsenal fan has done all that consistently and India finally might be having the ideal replacement for midfield general Climax Lawrence. Lenny’s performances took Churchill to third spot in the I-League and have been instrumental in their fantastic start this season. Under Koevermans, he is a regular in the national team and played a big part in the Nehru Cup triumph.
Syed Rahim Nabi (Mohun Bagan)
2012 was an eventful year for India’s Mr Versatile as he received praise from Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben but also suffered an unfortunate injury on his jaw after being hit by a missile from the stands in this season’s first Big Kolkata Derby. From a team’s perspective, Nabi had ups and downs for club and country but his performances were consistent throughout. Like at East Bengal, Nabi was used in different roles at his new club Mohun Bagan also, but despite his best efforts including some vital goals, the green-and-maroon brigade failed to live up to expectations. At international level, Nabi was one of the few standout players during India’s disastrous AFC Challenge Cup campaign in Nepal but the 27-year-old enjoyed success under new coach Wim Koevermans by lifting his third Nehru Cup. Now one of the senior players in the national team, Nabi is one of the first names on Kovermans’ team list. The fan favourite ended the year on a high as he was crowned the AIFF Player of the Year, an award he probably should have received much earlier.
Manandeep Singh (East Bengal)
Manandeep’s goal scoring exploits helped Air India comfortably survive relegation last season and it also saw him get nominated for ‘Best Indian Player’ and ‘Fans Player of the Year’ awards at the FPAI Awards 2012. He won the ‘Best Young Player’ accolade but the other two nominations are proof of his achievements among all the Indian players. Often, youngsters who move to a big club take time to settle but Manandeep has found his feet instantly at East Bengal, scoring on his debut and netting four goals to help them regain the Federation Cup. He is yet to be prolific in the I-league but has contributed to the team’s good start, with a fine strike against Churchill Brothers being the highlight. Manandeep also performed well for the India U-22s and already looks set to be an important member of the national team with an injury and postponement of a friendly stopping him from adding to the one international cap he won in February against Oman.Published 29 Dec 2012, 20:27 IST