Of the eleven managers in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season, seven are Spanish. Therefore, it is quite clear that there is a profound Spanish influence on Indian football at the moment.
It is also evident that these Spanish managers have been successful in the league with the likes of Carles Cuadrat and Antonio Lopez Habas leading their respective teams to ISL glory.
Most clubs in the ISL have opted for Spanish coaches, with a few others opting for head coaches or managers from the United Kingdom. Chennaiyin FC became the first ISL club to appoint a Hungarian coach in Csaba Laszlo, who has done quite well in his first season at the ISL.
The current season has been a difficult one. With clubs having a shortened pre-season, most coaches have found it difficult to prepare their teams for top-level matches.
However, on the other hand, there have been coaches who have also managed to stamp their authority on their respective clubs. Let's take a look at three such coaches in the ISL this season.
#1 Manolo Marquez
Hyderabad FC's debut season in the ISL was a forgettable one. With just two wins in its inaugural season, the club found itself rooted to the bottom of the table. It was clear to almost everyone that a managerial change was needed. Therefore, an executive decision was taken to appoint Spaniard Manolo Marquez in place of the unsuccessful Phil Brown.
While the ISL faithful in India hadn't heard of Manolo Marquez, most coaches and managers in the league hold him in high regard. The 52-year-old came into a Hyderabad FC unit that was facing a crisis of confidence.
Manolo's first game in charge saw the club keep its first-ever clean sheet. Records continued to be broken as matches came thick and fast in the ISL 2020/21. Manolo also ensured that his side went unbeaten in the league until a 2-0 loss to Mumbai City FC ended that streak.
However, the most commendable aspect of Manolo Marquez's reign as the Hyderabad FC coach in the ISL has been how he has handled the injury crisis in his squad. With Fran Sandaza and Lluis Sastre out, Manolo has managed to inspire and encourage younger Indian players to step up.
With strong performances so far, Manolo Marquez is successfully leading the renaissance of Hyderabad FC.
#2 Gerard Nus
Gerard Nus came into NorthEast United FC as the youngest-ever coach in the ISL. At 35, Nus has managed Liverpool reserves and worked briefly with Brighton & Hove Albion as well. His credentials do not need any more reinforcement.
Nus' first game in charge saw his NorthEast United side overwhelm ISL 2020-21 season's title favorites Mumbai City FC. Although it was a slender 1-0 win, the NorthEast United FC side seemed well organized, especially in the midfield and defense.
Nus' choice of signings has also come good. Benjamin Lambot and Idrissa Sylla have managed to capture the imagination of the NEUFC fans so far this season. Naming Lalengmawia aka 'Apuia' as the captain has been one among many masterstrokes of Gerard Nus.
Of course, the 35-year-old Spaniard has been involved in a few controversial spats on the touchline in ISL Season 7. But he seems to be the right man at the right club.
#3 Sergio Lobera
Following an impressive couple of seasons with FC Goa, Sergio Lobera quickly became the most sought-after coach in the labyrinth of the ISL. It is no secret that Lobera is one of the highest-paid coaches in the ISL. But his paycheck is justified by the results he has consistently managed to deliver in the last two seasons with FC Goa.
The Spaniard made the switch from FC Goa to Mumbai City FC, where he has managed to reinforce his brand of football. Besides, he has also brought along the likes of Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall, and Mandar Rao Dessai from FC Goa.
At present, the Islanders sit on top of the ISL table, with five wins from seven matches. They have also managed to score goals consistently and are one of two clubs this season with more than 10 goals.
Lobera's Mumbai City FC are currently the favorites to claim the League Winners' Shield. However, whether or not they manage to win the ISL Championship title, remains to be seen.Published 24 Dec 2020, 20:41 IST