The 2019-20 edition of the Indian Super League was not the best of outings for the Kerala Blasters. Despite a few impressive individual performances, the season in general was a washout. With just four wins in the season, the Blasters could only muster a seventh-place finish, ten points away from the elusive playoffs spot.
With the previous season ending in somewhat of a disaster, the club management has opted for a ground-up rebuild. There was collateral damage as well with top goalscorer Bartholomew Ogbeche, being released along with head coach Eelco Schattorie.
In the 2020-21 season, there have been as many as 13 new signings, with several more expected before the league starts. Let's take a look at a few players who could be key to the Kerala Blasters' chances in the upcoming season.
5 key players for Kerala Blasters in ISL 2020-21
1) Gary Hooper
The loss of Bartholomew Ogbeche might have left a void in the Kerala Blasters attacking unit. However, new head coach Kibu Vicuna has more than made up for it with the signing of Gary Hooper. The 32-year-old has carved a reputation for scoring goals in almost all clubs that he has played for.
Hooper has been featured in several top-flight leagues over the years, including the Scottish division with Celtic, where he played in the UEFA Champions league, and won two league titles. He has also played in the English Premier League with Norwich City. Needless to say, he will be a contender for the Golden Boot in the ISL this season.
2) Vicente Gomez
Similar to Gary Hooper, Vicente Gomez also boasts of extraordinary experience when it comes to playing top-flight football. The defensive midfielder has played all his football in Spain, and the ISL will be his first assignment outside the country.
Having come through the ranks at UD Las Palmas, the 32-year-old was a recurring name in the starting XI for all his seasons at the club, three of which came in the La Liga. He has also played in the Segunda Division with Deportivo La Coruna, and will be expected to deliver for the Kerala Blasters this season.
3) Nishu Kumar
For a brief period of time, Nishu Kumar was the highest-paid player in the Indian Super League following his transfer from Bengaluru FC to Kerala Blasters. As a full-back, the 23-year-old is as solid as they come. Initially having been viewed as the successor to Sandesh Jhingan, Nishu brings his own brand of football and leadership to the side.
In fact, the 23-year-old is also somewhat of a veteran when it comes to playing in India, and will be expected to use all his experience for the upcoming season. Rumors also seem to suggest that Nishu might be named captain of Kerala Blasters in the absence of Jhingan and Ogbeche.
4) Sahal Abdul Samad
Sahal Abdul Samad's consistent performances in the ISL have not only won him accolades with Kerala Blasters but also earned him a call up to the Indian national side. He has managed to break into the starting XI and has been a regular part of the side since 2019.
Samad will be expected to occupy central midfield along with Seityasen Singh and Sergio Cidoncha, with Vicente Gomez expected to occupy one of the central defensive positions. Coach Kibu Vicuna will be expecting the youngster to come good in the upcoming season as well.
5) Bilal Khan
The 2019-20 season witnessed Rehenesh TP occupy the goalkeeper's spot for the Kerala Blasters. He made 13 appearances in the league, and managed to keep a couple of clean sheets as well.
However, with Rehenesh moving to Jamshedpur FC, the onus has fallen on young Bilal Khan, who signed with Kerala Blasters last season. The 26-year-old has previously played for Real Kashmir and Gokulam Kerala, both clubs where he was the first-choice keeper. He will be the number one for the Blasters this season as well.Published 20 Oct 2020, 19:25 IST