After a dismal season where they finished seventh on the points table, Kerala Blasters have already begun their preparations for the next season of ISL. The management is leaving no stone unturned to create a formidable unit for the forthcoming edition.
Not only have they retained some of their consistent performers like Bartholomew Ogbeche and Sergio Cidoncha, they have also added some fresh names to their roster like Nishu Kumar and Tiri.
But, to make way for them, they need to part ways with some promising talents. While some of the discussed names have signed a pre-contract and will turn up in new kits for the next season of ISL, negotiations are going on for the other players.
Although Kerala Blasters are doing everything to keep them onboard, only time will tell where they will end up next season. On that note, let's take a look at four players who might depart to other shores from Kerala.
#4 Halicharan Narzary
If sources are to be believed, Halicharan Narzary is set to join Hyderabad FC for the next season of ISL. The India international previously represented FC Goa and NorthEast United in the competition and even had a brief loan stint with Chennaiyin FC last season.
Narzary represented Kerala Blasters a total 22 times, scoring 2 goals and bagging 2 assists. Having started his career as a striker, he operated on the left wing for the Yellow Army during his tenure with the club. This season, Narzary took 10 shots and lodged 32 crosses for them which resulted in one goal and two assists.
Hyderabad FC finished at the bottom of the table this season and will be hungry for an upturn in fortunes under the stewardship of their new manager Albert Roca. With Halicharan joining their ranks, the latest ISL franchise can expect a better outing.
#3 Mohamad Rakip
Unfortunate to have been left out of India's FIFA U-17 World Cup squad, Mohamad Rakip gave a good account of himself last season in his 11 appearances. The right-back didn't let his guard down last season under Eelco Schattorie and increased his tally of tackles, clearances, interceptions, and blocks.
Unlike his predecessor, the Kerala Blasters' Dutch coach deployed a passing brand of football which helped Rakip improve his average number of passes and passing accuracy.
The AIFF Elite Academy graduate is only aged 19 and has plenty of time to groom himself. According to sources, he has already signed a pre-contract with Mumbai City FC and will be turning up for the Islanders next season in the ISL.
While Subhasish Bose took care of the left flank of defense, the right flank was found wanting on several occasions. Sarthak Golui tried his best in the first half of tournament. But, with him being injured in the later stages and the club loaning Souvik Chakrabarty to Hyderabad FC, Mumbai was left without a regular right back. Rakip is a good acquisition made by the club.
#2 Vlatko Drobarov
Coming in midway through the season after injury took out Jairo Rodrigues, Vlatko Drobarov has got Bengaluru FC interested. However, it would be too early to say whether he would go there or not, as Kerala Blasters are also doing everything to retain him for the next ISL season.
Vlatko Drobarov came to India after being without a club for a year. There were high expectations from the Macedonian but he failed to help the team become as solid at the back as desirable. In 13 matches he was a part of, he scored one goal but earned five yellow cards.
Like most of the Kerala Blasters players, he too displayed a good passing ability with an accuracy of 86.15%, averaging at 42.23 passes per game. Having made a staggering 84 clearances this season alongside 28 tackles, 10 interceptions, and 9 blocks, he is an ideal go-to center back for any ISL club.
It remains to be seen whether Drobarov continues his association with Kerala Blasters or goes to some other club.
#1 Mouhamadou Moustapha Gning
One of the most unheralded players in the Blasters line-up, MouhamadouMoustapha Gning worked like a silent warrior tidying up the second balls in the centre of the field. Although the management considers him central to their plans for the next season, his contract is set to expire and Hyderabad FC are already on the lookout for him.
The Senegalese spent most of his professional career in the third division of Spain before moving to India. The deep-lying midfielder boasts a staggering 76 tackles, 22 interceptions, 37 clearances, and 16 blocks. Gning's ability to pass the ball shouldn't be underestimated either, as he averages 44.77 passes per game with an accuracy of 79.72%.
Hyderabad FC languished at the bottom of the ISL table and the blame can be put on their poor display in midfield. While Marcelinho took care of the attacking side of things at the centre of the park, the likes of Marko Stankovic did poorly in shielding the defense.
Their new head coach Albert Roca knows that to change the fortunes of the club, they need to bring a solid defensive midfielder, first and foremost. And, Moustapha Gning will be a great addition.