The Indian Super League (ISL) has recently witnessed a change in recruitment policy when coming to foreign signings. Unlike previous seasons, clubs are now keen on signing players with quality rather than experience and whopping wages. While the teams have not neglected player records entirely, they have ensured that the foreign arrivals still have football left in them.
Along with the marquee signings and star names who graced the ISL in the early seasons, we saw few lesser-known foreign players blending into the system of Indian football. Though we did not find a foreigner from the first ISL season still associated with the league as a player, there are a couple of names from the second edition still plying their trade here.
In this article, we look at the five longest-serving foreign players in the ISL in terms of games played.
#5 Marcelinho (63 games)
Marcelo Leite Periera, better known as Marcelinho, first came to India in 2016 as part of Delhi Dynamos. Under the tutelage of Gianluca Zambrotta, the striker scored ten goals in 15 matches and emerged as the top-scorer that season.
Marcelinho instantly attracted offers from clubs including Kerala Blasters, and penned a deal with Pune City. With the Stallions, he scored 14 goals in 31 games across two seasons before the club was dissolved in 2019.
Following head coach Phil Brown and most of his teammates, the Brazilian joined newly formed Hyderabad FC, and appeared in 17 matches, scoring seven goals. After a dismal season, Hyderabad is revamping the core of their side under new coach Albert Roca.
Even if the Spanish gaffer decides to let go of the striker, Marcelinho is sure to be approached by other ISL clubs, thereby extending the Brazilian's stay in India. In four seasons, Marcelinho has scored 31 goals in 63 games, and has undoubtedly become a part of ISL history.
#4 Memo Moura (64 games)
Memo Moura is another player from Delhi Dynamos' 2016 squad, who has been in and around for some time now. He played ten games, and registered one assist that season, operating mainly as a central midfielder.
In the next edition of ISL, Memo shifted base to Jamshedpur FC (JFC), and has been a trusted campaigner of the Red Miners till date. He featured in the first two seasons at JFC as a midfielder and scored two goals along with providing one assist. In the recently concluded 2019/20 ISL season, the 32-year-old was seen in a new position, guarding the heart of the defence as a centre-back.
Memo, who has played 54 games for Jamshedpur and 64 ISL games in total, is a veteran in the league. He also boasts of a unique feat of not missing a single game in the last three seasons. As Memo's contract is running out this season, it needs to be seen if the Brazilian decides to continue his stay in India.
#3 Lucian Goian (70 games)
Lucian Goian is a foreign player in the ISL who has amassed admirers even from rival clubs. The centre-back's first stint in the league was with Mumbai City in 2016, after he made a move from Romanian club CFR Cluj.
He played 50 games in three seasons, operating as a driving force in defence for the Islanders. Goian had a total of 246 tackles against his name in the process, and contributed in attack too, scoring three goals in his forays forward. The 37-year-old never went down the pecking order, missing only four games including a suspension, during his stay in Mumbai.
For the 2019/29 season, Goian signed for Chennaiyin FC, and repeated his heroics, playing a pivotal role in the side's run to the final. Apart from his defensive duties, the Romanian scored two goals, including a winner against Mumbai City, that helped Chennai qualify for the playoffs.
Despite playing 70 games in four seasons, Lucian Goian's future in India is yet to be known and is a matter of interest for the football fans.
#2 Raphael Augusto (71 games)
In 2015, Chennaiyin FC signed a 24-year-old midfielder named Raphael Augusto, on loan from Brazilian club Fluminense. Playing under Marco Materazzi, the player progressed gradually, and turned into a key figure in Chennaiyin's title win.
The club didn't let go of the player as they signed him on a permanent deal in 2016. The next three seasons saw the rise of a fan-favourite at the Marina Arena. After 12 games in the first season, Augusto made 14 appearances in the 2016 campaign of the ISL.
When John Gregory came in place of Materazzi before the 2017/18 season, the Brazilian's prominence in the side only increased. He pulled strings in midfield, and led the club to a second ISL title. By 2019, Augusto played 62 games for CFC in the ISL, netting six goals and providing as many assists.
The midfield general joined Bengaluru FC before this season but was hindered by an injury midway through the season. Despite an inauspicious start with his new club, Raphael Augusto looks daring to go with the Blues and will be adding to his 71 ISL games when he returns for the next edition of the competition.
#1 Tiri (72 games)
There is no other foreigner still serving in the ISL, who has made an impact as much as Tiri has. The Spaniard's first Indian spell was with ATK in 2015. After an impressive debut campaign, he returned for the next season and played 11 matches in Kolkata's title run.
After 24 ties donning the ATK jersey, Tiri moved to then-newbies Jamshedpur FC. He missed just 10 minutes of action in the first two seasons, remaining an untroubled presence in the back-line. Although the centre-back stood out with his impressive performances, he never managed to feature in a playoff as Jamshedpur fell short of qualification in both seasons.
In the 2019/20 ISL season, Tiri was again on the field for every minute until an injury in the ninth match cut short his campaign. The 28-year-old has 72 ISL games to his name, and was on his way to another all-match season when he faced an unexpected hurdle in the form of an injury.Published 22 Apr 2020, 18:41 IST