The winter transfer window in Europe is less active compared to the one in the summer and that used to be the case in the I-League too. But this season there has been plenty of signings in the winter window, which closed yesterday, especially because of the rule of allowing clubs to change their foreigners irrespective of injuries. The clubs who are in danger of relegation have been the most active but even title contenders Churchill Brothers signed three players. Sportskeeda lists the top five signings of this winter transfer window.
1. Sunil Chhetri (Churchill Brothers)
The biggest signing of this winter transfer window has to be the Indian captain’s loan move to title-chasing Churchill Brothers. Sunil was hardly getting any game time at Sporting Lisbon ‘B’ and thus, on the sidelines of the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers camp in Pune, the 28-year-old signed a four-month deal with the Goan club. Back in February 2011, Sunil had joined United Sports Club in a short-team deal but this move has extra significance as the star striker has the chance to win his first-ever I-League title. Churchill Brothers are only a point behind league leaders East Bengal with two games in hand and thus, the addition of Sunil will give them plenty of firepower for the title run-in. With Churchill playing in the AFC Cup as well, Sunil could also make his mark in the continental stage again.
2. John Wilkinson (Salgaocar)
Salgaocar endured a very difficult first half of the season and thus, changed all three foreigners that they had signed at the start of the season. Former Singapore international John Wilkinson has had the biggest impact among the new signings as Salgaocar have found in him a leader in the middle of the park. Under David Booth, who replaced Karim Bencherifa in the middle of the season, Salgaocar play a very direct style of football and Wilkinson is indispensable to that system. The 2010-11 champions have won three of the four matches that Wilkinson has played so far and the English-born player’s experience and quality will be vital in Salgaocar’s survival bid. The 33-year-old midfielder will be looking to be at his best when the I-League resumes next month and inspire the Goan club to safety.
3. Angel Berlanga (Sporting Clube de Goa)
The summer transfer window saw the arrival of several high-profile foreigners like Carlos Hernandez, Rohan Ricketts and the winter window also had some quality foreign additions with Sporting Clube’s new Spanish defender Angel Berlanga being the biggest name. Berlanga has an impressive CV as he played in the 2011 Club World Cup for New Zealand’s Auckland City and his arrival has had an instant impact at the Goan club. The centre back scored on his debut in the 2-0 win over Salgaocar and Sporting Clube have also managed to keep clean sheets in each of his three matches so far. Berlanga showed his quality against title contenders Churchill Brothers and he would be aiming to perform well against some of the other top strikers in the I-League like Odafa Okolie and Edeh Chidi and help Sporting Clube avoid relegation.
4. Quinton Jacobs (Mohun Bagan)
In terms of skill and technique, there are few better creative midfielders than Quinton Jacobs in the I-League but somehow, the Namibian couldn’t perform for Salgaocar and was eventually released. But Karim Bencherifa, the man who originally signed him at Salgaocar, was quick to pounce as the former Namibia skipper signed for Mohun Bagan. Quinton won’t start every game as the Kolkata club have the star strike-force of Odafa and Tolgay Ozbey but his presence on the bench gives Mohun Bagan the strength in depth that they had lacked early in the season. Quinton could especially be useful when Mohun Bagan are chasing the game as his creativity will provide the service for the two star forwards. The signing of Quinton, who had a trial with Manchester United in 1998, could very well be the difference between survival and relegation.
5. Sho Kamimura (Shillong Lajong)
The north-eastern club had been struggling for goals as they managed just 14 in 18 matches and thus needed a new foreign striker to help in their survival bid. Japanese Sho Kamimura, who has the experience of playing in Japan’s J-League second division and Singapore’s S-League, was signed and the 23-year-old made a dream start in Indian football. Kamimura bagged a match-saving brace in a 2-2 draw with Air India in his very first game and that point could prove to be crucial at the end of the season. While another Japanese, Taisuke Matsugane and Portuguese teenager Edinho Junior, who has joined on loan from Blackburn Rovers, also look to be good additions, Lajong will rely more on the goals of Kamimura to help them beat the drop. Kamimura has six games to save Lajong and also impress the bigger clubs.