ISL 2017/18: How Indian Super League clubs are luring I-League players away less than a week after thrilling finish
Football clubs do tend to keep one eye on the future when it comes to strengthening their squads. A lot of behind the scenes work happens in every club to identify the right target and then try and sign the perfect reinforcements as quickly as possible.
ISL clubs have caught the eye in recent weeks by not only identifying their targets for the future but also securing their services with the help of a pre-contract agreement. Its not even been a week since the I-League got over, but there have been a number of reports circulating about the players from the I-League signing an agreement with the ISL clubs for the future seasons.
Recently, Michael Soosairaj, captain of Chennai City FC in this I-League campaign, signed for Jamshedpur FC on a two-year deal. A reported Rs 25 lakh were paid by the ISL debutants to the Chennai club for acquiring the midfielder's services. It is also claimed that the 23-year-old will now have a Rs 95 lakh rupees release clause in his two-year stint, with the Steve Coppell unit.
Nikhil Kadam, the Kolhapur-born Mohun Bagan winger who played a huge role in the Mariners' title challenge, is reportedly close to penning down a deal with NorthEast United.
Similarly, Arnab Mondal is claimed to be closing in on a return to ATK whereas, Gurjinder Singh - the former Pune FC defender, has been linked with a move to Kerala Blasters.
Kivi Zhimomi, Gagandeep Bali, Mohammad Rafique and Cavin Lobo are also some of the other players that are being linked with a move to the ISL clubs.
"Basically most of these players have short-term contracts with the I-League clubs, which come to an end around May," explained an agent, who works closely with some of the top football players in the country right now.
"So the ISL clubs have swung into action early on, in order to catch these players before the competition gets hot," said the agent. "They sign a pre-contract with them, which essentially means that the players are bound to sign for the club in question.
"The players themselves are also very much interested in the ISL, as it has a lot to offer, unless of course, if the I-League clubs pay them a lot of money."
To be fair, a flurry of transfers from the I-League to the ISL was expected to take place, but it is the timing of these reported pre-contract agreements that has grabbed the eyeballs. The mentioned players are also some of the best in the I-League, which has made the poaching of these talents by the ISL clubs in such a short notice even more commendable.
The current ISL season is said by many, to be the most popular edition among the masses and despite an enthralling title race in the I-League, the crowds failed to throng to the I-League stadiums as compared to the ones of the ISL sides. The pull of these 10 teams may have gotten to be too good to be ignored for the players which have resulted in a number of agreements being reached ahead of the Super Cup and the future league campaigns.
This pattern may also suggest to the fact that the merger between the two leagues could not come quicker for Indian football with the cream of footballers now looking to ply their trade in the Indian Super League, ahead of the I-League.