English Premier League and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand recently dropped a huge hint that he was open to the idea of coming out of retirement and booting up for the Indian Super League (ISL).
ISL teams have consistently attracted top talent and marquee players to their midst and that’s really helped the tournament soar.
If foreign players are willing to come out of retirement to play in the ISL and return with their heads held high, then we can at least hope some Indian players would do the same.
Will they do it? It’s unlikely, due to a myriad of reasons (age being a prime reason). But for a moment, let’s just think about these five players who, if they came out of retirement, would have perfectly fitted into the ISL.
#1 Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhutia will always remain the ‘Big Bhai’ of 21st-century Indian football. For a very long time from the 1990s, and well into the 2000s, he was Indian football’s lone poster boy.
His effective combination play with Kerala-based IM Vijayan is the stuff legends are made of.
The ‘Sikkimese Sniper,’ as he was fondly called, has always been a stickler for fitness and finesse. Making his debut for East Bengal, he turned Indian international in 1995, at the age of 19.
The first Indian player to have plied his trade in the English Second Division, with FC Bury, he would be a natural fit into any current ISL team.
A natural leader, his mere presence has always been enough to make players believe in themselves. This was evident during his last international match, against South Korea, during the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar.
Bhutia, who was injured, was brought on as a substitute very late in the game. The Indian team, which had been playing like a headless chicken until then, suddenly grew in confidence. The minute he came on, they tiki-taka’ed their way to 23 passes and almost scored. The hundreds of South Korean fans at the venue applauded the player.
What an addition Bhutia would be to any ISL team.