The Indian Super League (ISL) has been a breakthrough of sorts as far as Indian football is concerned. Right from its inception in 2014, it has served as one of the premier competitions in India. Featuring eight teams in the three seasons so far, the league is all set to expand to 10 teams in the coming one with the addition of Bengaluru FC and a Jamshedpur franchise owned by the Tata group.
The ISL is the most attended professional football league in Asia and commands some of the highest attendances in the world. Two teams have been crowned champions of the ISL so far – Atletico de Kolkata winning the inaugural season as well as last season whilst Chennaiyin FC won it in 2015.
The league has depended on a number of legends of the game, who in their final years of their career graced the pitches around India. But with the coming season, more emphasis will be put on Indian players as the signing of marquee players will be made optional.
Popular stars from the Premier League have strutted their stuff in the ISL and managed to garner a lot of fan support for their teams. With that in mind, let’s have a look at former Chelsea and Arsenal stars that have featured in the ISL so far.
#1 Nicolas Anelka: 5/10
Who better to start off this list with than someone who has played for both the London giants and has won the domestic double with both of them. Anelka joined Arsenal as a teenager in 1997 and was adjudged Young Player of the Year by PFA in the following season. Journeying across Europe, the Frenchman came back to London when he joined Chelsea in 2008. He played in the Champions League final that season and lifted the FA Cup trophy in the following one, in which he also won the Golden Boot in the Premier League.
Anelka joined Mumbai City as a marquee player in the inaugural season of the ISL and served as player-manager in the second season. He scored two goals in seven matches in 2014 and failed to score in six matches in 2015. The former Champions League winner with Real Madrid and Euro 2000 winner with France subsequently retired from football.
#2 Freddie Ljungberg: 2/10
The former Swedish winger spent nine years at Arsenal, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups as well as finishing runners-up in the Champions League. Ljungberg was, in fact, adjudged the Premier League Player of the Season in 2002 and placed 11th in Gunners' Greatest 50 Players in 2008.
Ljungberg came back from retirement to take part in the inaugural season of the ISL for Mumbai City as their marquee player. However, due to persistent injury problems, the Swede played just four games for the team before cutting his contract short and retiring from football altogether. The former Swedish captain is currently the assistant manager of VfL Wolfsburg.
#3 Florent Malouda: 7/10
French winger Florent Malouda spent six years in Chelsea, winning one Premier League title and three FA Cups with the Blues. He won the Champions League in 2012 and was adjudged Chelsea Players' Player of the Year in the double winning season of 2009-10. Malouda has also played 80 times for the French national team, including two World Cups and two European Championships.
The Frenchman joined the Delhi Dynamos in the second season of the ISL and was the Lions’ marquee player last season. Adjudged as the Hero of the Indian Super League last season, the Frenchman has so far played a total of 32 matches in the ISL, scoring three goals, providing 13 assists.
#4 Robert Pires: 2/10
The former French footballer spent six years at Arsenal, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. He was also a finalist in the Champions League in 2006 and was the FWA Footballer of the Year for 2001-02. His scintillating performances for the Gunners saw him featuring in the PFA Team of the Year for three years in succession. The Frenchman, in fact, was voted as the 6th greatest player in Arsenal’s history by the club’s fans and is currently a first team coach at Arsenal.
Pires made a comeback to football when he joined FC Goa in the inaugural season of the ISL as their marquee signing. He played eight games for the club, scoring a solitary goal before being released by FC Goa. The former World Cup and European Championship winner subsequently retired from football.
#5 Eidur Gudjohnsen: N/A
Icelandic forward Eidur Gudjohnsen was a fan favourite at Chelsea during his six successful years with the club. He won two Premier League titles with the Blues as well as the League Cup in 2005. Gudjohnsen would go on to play for Barcelona, where he was part of the side that won the treble in 2008-09.
Having been signed by FC Pune City as their marquee signing ahead of last season, Gudjohnsen picked up an injury in pre-season and was subsequently ruled out of the tournament. The former captain of the Iceland national team is not ruling out a return to the ISL in 2017.
#6 Jermaine Pennant: 4/10
English winger Jermaine Pennant had signed for Arsenal as a teenager back in 1999. Scoring a hattrick on his full league debut, Pennant struggled for game time during his time with the Gunners and spent most of his time on loan. He won the Community Shield with Arsenal and would later go on to play in a Champions League final with Liverpool.
Pennant joined FC Pune City in the inaugural season of the ISL in 2014. He played seven times for the club before returning to England. Pennant currently plays for League One side Bury.
#7 Mikael Silvestre: 5/10
Former French defender Mikael Silvestre signed for Arsenal in 2008 after a hugely successful spell with Manchester United. He was the first player to transfer directly between the two rivals in the Premier League era. Having won all the major trophies with Manchester United, his time at Arsenal was trophyless.
Silvestre signed for Chennaiyin FC in the inaugural season of the ISL on a four-month contract for over $500,000. He played 14 times for the club, scoring one goal before retiring at the end of the season.
#8 Adrian Mutu: 7/10
Former Romanian footballer Adrian Mutu transferred to Chelsea in 2003 for a sum of €22.5 million. His time with the Blues came to a harrowing end when he failed a drug test for cocaine and was subsequently released by the club, receiving a lengthy ban and hefty fines in the process.
Mutu signed for FC Pune City in the second season of the ISL as their marquee player. He scored four goals in ten appearances for the club. A four-time Romanian footballer of the year, Mutu retired in 2016. The joint highest scorer of the Romanian national team, Mutu is now the general manager of Dinamo Bucuresti.
#9 Andre Santos: 8/10
Brazilian footballer Andre Santos signed for Arsenal from Fenerbahce in 2011 for €7 million. The left-back, who is often deployed in the left-wing as well, endured a trophyless stay at Arsenal. He has 24 caps for Brazil and won the Confederations Cup with the national side.
Santos joined FC Goa in the inaugural season of the ISL. He proved to be a key player for the Goan side and helped them reach the semi-finals, scoring four goals and providing three assists in the process. Santos currently plays for Boluspor in Turkey.
#10 Graham Stack: 4/10
Goalkeeper Graham Stack joined Arsenal in 1998. A product of Arsenal’s academy, he was a part of the Invincibles squad but spent a lot of time on loan before leaving the club in 2006. He has played for several clubs in England.
Stack joined Kerala Blasters in the last season of ISL in a player/goalkeeping coach position. He made eight appearances and kept a solitary clean sheet before returning to England. Stack currently plays for National League club Eastleigh.