ISL 2017/18: Why joint-top scorer Mark Sifneos left Kerala Blasters mid-season to join FC Goa
It has been a rather turbulent ISL season for Kerala Blasters fo far. Three wins, five draws and four losses from 12 matches does not make for a good reading for any team that are two-time runners-up.
The expectations on the Blasters' shoulders are immense, as they have one of the biggest fan-bases in the country. However, the Blasters have flattered to deceive, despite having some top names like Sandesh Jhingan, Wes Brown, CK Vineeth, Iain Hume, and the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov in their ranks.
They are currently languishing at the seventh spot on the ISL table, and run the risk of falling to eighth if rivals ATK manage to win the game that they have in hand over the Blasters.
To add to their woes, former head coach Rene Meulensteen, who had previously served as the assistant coach for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, was sacked earlier this month, with David James taking over for the rest of the season.
Most recently, they received yet another blow, as striker Mark Sifneos parted ways with the club, and went on to sign for their west coast rivals FC Goa. What baffled one and all was that Sifneos was one of the few players in the Kerala Blasters' ranks, who was on good form; he still is the joint top scorer with four goals to his name this season.
The additional advantage of having Sifneos in the team was that he is just 19 years old, and brings in the freshness to the side that already has a number of over-30 players like Berbatov, Hume, Brown, and a few others.
However, according to a source close to the Dutch striker, the 19-year-old was not too happy with the way things changed under new head coach David James. In fact, he is even said to have asked the club management for a transfer.
"Sifneos saw in two weeks, the difference in preparation. Team meetings, team analysis, opponent analysis, training methodology, all went from high standard to non-existent," the source said to Sportskeeda. "But in his words, at least the Indian players feel more comfortable and less pressure to perform.
"He knew he wouldn't develop, and asked to find a solution so he could make the transfer. The club management agreed to cancel his contract without even inquiring about a fee," said the source.
According to the source, a few European clubs, including one team from the Greek top division had also shown interest in Sifneos. With two-and-a-half years remaining on Sifneos' contract these European clubs were said to be willing to pay around €500,000 (Rs 3.9 crore) for his services.
However, the club is said to have astoundingly ignored these aspects and released the Dutch striker.
"They do not understand the business of football. They just saw Sifneos as someone on a three-year contract, letting him go was like 'saving' on two-and-a-half years of salary for them. The kid will be a €30m player, I'm sure," said the source.
Subsequently, Sifneos went on to join the high-flying FC Goa, replacing Adrian Colunga in the Gaurs' squad.
To replace Sifneos, the Blasters have brought in Icelandic striker Gudjon Baldvinsson, who is around 12 years older than the Dutchman. As they head into their 13th ISL match of the season, a home encounter against bottom club Delhi Dynamos, it will be interesting to see whether the Blasters can cope with the pressure of playing without their joint top scorer.