“Manchester United defending a corner. Chelsea winger Joe Cole is standing over the ball. In front of the Stretford End, Tim Howard is arranging the defensive shape. Gary Neville is marking Lampard, Ferdinand is covering Drogba, and Cole delivers a good cross. Howard comes off his line, collects the ball and lays it on for a running Ryan Giggs just beyond the half-line.
Giggs is on the run. Giggs beats Essien and passes it to Ruud van Nistelrooy. The Dutch striker has been in red-hot form for a while now and the United striker is running through on goal. Nistelrooy vs Makelele and ohhh! It’s a crunching challenge. Makelele makes a clean interception and wins the ball with a majestic challenge.”
Even if you’ve seen the same story on any other hemisphere of football, you will not question the importance of players like Claude Makelele. Makelele was not a defender but did a lot of dirty work on the pitch for Chelsea. Leading them majestically to the Premier League under Jose Mourinho, the Frenchman, along with John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho was regarded as one of the hardest tacklers in the game.
Coming to Indian shores, the Hero Indian Super League has raised its levels this season, with some very fine attacking and defensive displays on the pitch. While a lot has been written about the attacking side of things, a little more input into the defensive aspect has been found wanting. Here, we take a look at the five hardest tacklers in the Indian Super League (irrespective of their positions on the field)
#1 Borja Fernandez
If there’s ever a list of impact and not just numbers, it is almost impossible to keep this ‘gentle’man out. Known for his great behavior against opponents off the pitch, Borja is one of the hardest tackling men in the Indian footballing circuit currently. The Spanish midfielder has plied his trade for Atletico de Kolkata from season one and has grown into one of their key players.
The former Real Madrid and Getafe player was the first player to be signed by the Hero Indian Super League and such has been his influence on the pitch, that he’s always regarded highly by the opposition. Standing at just over 6’1”, the well-built midfielder is as good in the air as he is on the pitch. Having made 40 appearances overall, the midfielder has committed 82 fouls, earning 10 yellow cards and one red.
This might speak a lot about his indiscipline, but there’s no doubt about his effectiveness in breaking opposition play. The midfielder has played every minute of his team’s campaign this season and has made a whopping 23 crunching tackles in just nine games. With 12 of them being interceptions, it shows the effectiveness of the player on the pitch.
With his defensive duties, Borja also gives a lot of attacking spine to his team. Playing as a deep-lying playmaker, the 35-year-old is a tireless runner and has been one of the best players in the ISL till date. With 12 interceptions, Borja has also won 8 aerial duels this season, which makes him indispensable for his side.