Kerala Blasters should take a leaf out of FC Goa's book to win the title
Blasters’ decline really came after the departure of manager, Steve Coppell in 2017. He was replaced by Rene Meulensteen. That was a failed move for Meulensteen, but equally for Blasters’.
David James arrived, another underwhelming appointment; after a poor run of results, he too was axed.
For a second season running Blasters’ are caught up in a dismal cycle of failure that sees the club hire and fire managers. But the truth is, the seeds for the woeful season that has unfolded were sown during a disastrous summer transfer window.
Season 4 had one good purchase: Mark Sifneos from RKC Waalwijk, who scored four goals from 12 appearances. For reasons best known to them, Blasters’ chose to part ways with the Dutchman.
But for Sifneos, there were several duds. Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown, who were clearly past their sell-by date, failed to fire.
Guðjón Baldvinsson joining on a loan in the winter was a poor replacement for the injured Ian Hume.
If season 4 was the first indictment, that Blasters’ were struggling recruitment-wise, that point has been hammered home in season 5.
Slavisa Stojanovic and Slovenian striker Matej Poplatnik have looked out of depth at ISL level despite making a bright start.
Nikola Krcmarevic, hailed as a ‘huge coup’ for Blasters when he arrived from a club in the Faroe Islands, has failed to provide any craft and guile in midfield.
In several of their games, David James chose not to utilize the full quota of foreign players in the playing XI. To not make use of the full quota of foreign players after signing them in the summer is somewhat baffling. David was involved in that transfer process throughout, so it’s a public admission that the foreigner players he was working with were nowhere near good enough to compete.
Being out of contention for the playoffs at least gives Blasters a chance to introspect and taking a leaf out of FC Goa’s book may not be the worst idea the Blasters’ could ever have.
A major reason for FC Goa’s success under Sergio Lobero has been their brilliant recruitments.
Ahmed Jahouh loaned from FUS Rabat is a Moroccan International. The deep-lying playmaker is one of the pivotal reasons why the Gaurs are able to dominate oppositions with their fluid passing and movement.
Midway through last season, Lobera opted to bring in another Moroccan international, Hugo Boumous. He has been a revelation since signing for the Gaurs.
Sergio Lobero is on verge of signing a third Moroccan International in Zaid Krouch. Of course, one should not forget Senegalese international Mourtada Fall.
However, amid all the African flavor, there has been a strong Spanish influence. Lobera brought in Ferran Corominas, Manuel Lanzarote and Edu Bedia. Having these intelligent, technically-gifted players has allowed the Gaurs to play an expansive style of football.
There's a fair chance these players might not be the instantly-recognizable name fans anticipated but they turned out to be a lot better. A basic Google search would’ve quickly unearthed that most of these players had international caps to their name and played at a level much higher than the Indian Super League.
When a manager looks at an overseas player’s profile, he often looks at "What is the highest level that he has played at? How many times has a player dropped down a level or returned to a level at which they had played previously? How does that compare to the Indian Super League.?"
Sergio Lobero and his scouting team deserve much credit for bringing these unfashionable yet quality footballers to Indian shores.
It's a shame to see Kerala Blasters struggle after their halcyon days but the blame would lie squarely at the management. The CEO has presided over far too many poor decisions without being held accountable.
The owners should probably realize now that if the person running the club on a day-to-day basis does not have the football expertise to make the right calls, then the club is doomed.
A Director of Football could possibly help Blasters rediscover their mojo. While it is not a guarantor of future success, it can significantly improve the recruitment process. A long re-build awaits.