Europe is the toast of the footballing world; the continent houses the world’s best players and is the dream destination for almost the entire population in the footballing sphere. From players and trainers to brands and businesses, European football is the dreamland, something which is true for India as well.
Ranked 101st in the world, India doesn’t have a top-level footballing culture, but now and again, the country is treated to news about Indian-origin players making it big in European football.
Also read: Best current Indian-origin XI
Since things are on the up for Indian football — the Indian national team goalkeeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, plays in the Norwegian top flight for Stabaek — let’s take a look at five Indian-origin footballers who have attracted the attentions of top European clubs until now.
#1 Rhys Williams – Liverpool
Rhys Williams’s mother hails from Mumbai, hence he was eligible to represent India at international level but the utility man chose Australia, the country of his birth, instead.
The 28-year-old came through the ranks at Middlesbrough and went on to lead the Teessiders in his 11-year association with them. It was during his time at Middlesbrough that Williams was linked with five-time European champions, Liverpool. In January 2012, Liverpool had informal discussions with Williams’ management, according to the Australian Daily Telegraph, but nothing materialised in the end.
Liverpool have had their fair share of Australian imports including Craig Johnstone, Brad Jones and Harry Kewell, but had Williams been signed by Liverpool, it would have been a proud moment for Indians and Indian football as well.
#2 Yan Dhanda – Arsenal
Dhanda, 18, currently plays in Liverpool’s academy but before joining the Anfield-based club, he was courted by Arsenal. Back then, he was 14 and was at West Brom, who spotted the Birmingham-born attacker in an Asian Soccer Star talent competition.
Had he joined Arsenal, Dhanda would’ve become the youngest player in his international group. However, that move didn’t come to fruition and he subsequently joined Liverpool and now plays for their Under-18 team.
Dhanda is the first player of Indian heritage to sign a professional contract with Liverpool. He signed for the Liverpool academy from West Brom aged just 14 in July 2013 for a deal reported to be worth £200,000.
#3 Neil Taylor – Newcastle United
Taylor’s mother is a Bengali from Kolkata, hence he too was eligible to play for India. However, Taylor represented Wales’ under-17s and is now a regular member of their senior national team. The left-back recently joined Aston Villa in January this year after spending seven years at Swansea.
In the summer of 2011, Taylor was the subject of a £1 million bid from Newcastle United, but the then 22-year-old stayed put at Swansea and played a key role in the Swans’ impressive 11th-place finish in their maiden Premier League campaign.
Also read: 5 lesser known footballers of Indian origin
Taylor also played a prominent role in Wales’s progression into the semi-finals of Euro 2016. He played every minute of every game as the Dragons created history and also scored his first international goal in the process.
#4 Luciano Narsingh – Liverpool
26-year-old Narsingh is the son of a Sikh-Indian immigrant who now plies his trade for Premier League outfit Swansea. The Dutch international started his senior career at Heerenveen before moving to PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2012.
Before moving to Swansea, Narsingh attracted interest from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who were looking for a replacement for the Africa Cup of Nations-bound Sadio Mane in January, but the pacey winger instead went on to join Paul Clement’s Swans.
Despite having Indian roots, Narsingh has represented Netherlands from under-18s upwards to the senior national team. He has played 16 games for the Dutch national team so far, scoring four goals.
#5 Danny Batth – Aston Villa
Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Batth is of Sikh Punjabi descent; he has an Indian father and an English mother. Batth has been at Wolves since 2000, when he was 10, and has come through the club’s academy to now lead the side.
In the summer of 2014, Premier League club Aston Villa were keen on signing Batth, as they contemplated a £5 million bid. However, Wolves made their intentions clear of not letting Batth leave under any circumstances, emphasising their need for the 6-foot-3 defender to help their promotion push instead of aiding Villa’s cause.
Batth and Aston Villa are playing in the same division now as it has been quite a steep fall for the Birmingham-based club from their European Cup-winning days in 1982 to struggling in the Championship.