ISL 2017: NorthEast United closing in on Brazilian playmaker signing
What's the story?
In what should be a comforting piece of news for NorthEast United fans, the club are close to sealing a deal for Brazilian attacking midfielder Marcio de Souza Gregório Júnior, popularly known as Marcinho.
The 31-year-old will become the first foreign signing for the club for the 2017-18 Indian Super League season. When asked, a source close the club quoted a club official as sayi: "We are going to make some big announcements soon. As regards any particular player, we will let you know by the end of this week."
However, the reliable transfermarkt.com website has already listed him as a NorthEast United player, suggesting the transfer is imminent.
In case you didn't know...
NorthEast have been known to be one of the ISL teams with the lowest wage bill, but their delay in signing a foreign player has tested the patience of the club's fans all summer.
With the signing of eight overseas players mandatory for ISL clubs, NorthEast are yet to get off the blocks.
The heart of the matter
Marcinho has played at top Brazilian clubs like Corinthians and last played at Turkish second division outfit Gaziantepspor. He has also played in Bulgaria with CSKA Sofia and Russia with FC Ufa. The attacking midfielder can play on both flanks as well as his favoured central position and will not be a newcomer to Asian football like many other new ISL foreign signings.
He had a spell with South Korean side Gyeongnam FC for six months in the second half of 2010 and therefore, will not be a complete stranger to Indian conditions.
The 2017-18 ISL season kick starts on 17th November and has not finished in the top four, hence new head coach Joao Carlos Pires de Deus has a big task in his hands to lead NorthEast to uncharted territory in the forthcoming season.
NorthEast United are one of the only two clubs to have never made the ISL playoffs. With the other team with a similar record - FC Pune City - having already made some big-name signings like Emiliano Alfaro and Marcos Tebar, the onus is on the Highlanders to up the ante and get their recruitment policy sorted.
How successful the signing of Marcinho will be for NorthEast remains to be seen, but with the likes of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov joining other ISL clubs, it seems the 2017-18 season might yet again see the Highlanders miss out on the race to the title.