So near, yet so far. This was Bengaluru FC’s 2022-23 season in a nutshell. Simon Grayson arrived with huge expectations and immediately delivered, winning the Durand Cup in August. However, just when the season looked promising, the Blues faltered in the Indian Super League (ISL), stumbling to nine defeats in their first 12 games.
But against all odds, Bengaluru FC clawed their way back and showed resilience to stage a remarkable comeback. Eleven consecutive wins later, they faced ATK Mohun Bagan in the final of the Indian Super League.
As fate turned out, the 2019 ISL champions fell short in the final hurdle in a cruel manner. Nonetheless, they once again bounced back to book their place in the Hero Super Cup finals. But history repeated; this time, it was Odisha FC’s turn to harm the Blues' chances to secure another trophy.
Despite the disappointments, consistency has remained the key since the turn of the year. Grayson has finetuned a team that will be ready to challenge the frontrunners once again. For that to happen, however, the Blues have to further strengthen their squad.
Sandesh Jhingan, who was instrumental in the club's turnaround in form, and Udanta Singh, who has been a loyal servant for Bengaluru FC, have bid farewell ahead of the new season. Meanwhile, full-back Prabir Das is also reported to be on his way out. As a result, there is an impetus to improve their depth in certain positions.
On that note, let’s take a look at the three players the Blues should sign ahead of the 2023-24 season.
#1 Vikram Pratap Singh (Winger)
With long-time servant Udanta Singh set to depart the club, Bengaluru FC will be on the market to replace his profile. Mumbai City FC’s Vikram Pratap Singh certainly fits what Simon Grayson wants from his wingers and could seamlessly slot into the right flank.
The Blues have already couped Halicharan Narzary and Rohit Danu from Hyderabad FC, which further indicates Grayson’s plans to shift his formation from a 3-5-2 to a traditional 4-3-3.
Moreover, we witnessed the change in the system towards the backend of the ISL campaign and the Hero Super Cup, where Udanta played a huge role in Bengaluru FC’s road to the final.
Vikram Pratap Singh is currently seen as a backup to Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte at Mumbai City. His pace and ability to beat his marker have been key features of his success.
With his lofty ambitions of representing the Indian national team, he would want to demonstrate his quality on a consistent basis to secure a place in the national team for the AFC Asian Cup in 2024.
#2 Slavko Damjanovic (Defender)
Following a disappointing end to the ISL campaign, Bengaluru FC announced that defender Alan Costa will part ways with the club. The Brazilian played a huge part in the Blues' success as he defended resiliently and scored a few vital goals as well.
His unwavering commitment and commanding presence at the back are very hard to replace. Bengaluru FC will be on the lookout for a defender who also has experience playing in the ISL and one who can slot into Costa’s position.
While finding a like-to-like replacement is a tough job, ATK Mohun Bagan’s Slavko Damjanovic has shown time and again that he is more than capable of performing on the big stage. He formed an excellent partnership with Pritam Kotal and helped the Kolkata giants to lift the coveted ISL silverware.
The 30-year-old also has a knack for scoring in crucial situations, with his goal against East Bengal in the 2022-23 ISL season securing the Mariners' playoff position.
Damjanovic's contract expires at the end of the season, and he has the potential to step into Alan Costa's shoes at Bengaluru FC.
#3 Narender Gahlot (Defender)
Odisha FC’s Narender Gahlot is our final pick on the list. While Gahlot’s contract expires at the end of the 2024-25 season, the 22-year-old has shown remarkable consistency in his first year at Odisha FC.
Additionally, his versatility will benefit the Blues as he can play across the back line.
With Alan Costa, Sandesh Jhingan, and Prabir Das’ departures, Bengaluru FC could utilize Gahlot’s skillset and his ability to effortlessly fill multiple positions.
It brings a sense of added flexibility to the squad, something that head coach Simon Grayson tends to appreciate in a player.