Another season of hope and hype ended in disappointment for the Kerala Blasters as the two-time runners up of ISL couldn't make it to the playoffs once again. The club finished ten points behind Chennaiyin FC as the former languished in seventh in the points table.
However, it would be wrong to say nothing went right for the Blasters. They were the only club to do a double over ISL champions ATK this season and accumulated the most number of points (10) over teams in the top four, among sides who finished on the other side of the demarcation line.
But, constant injuries meant that Eelco Schattorie never had a fixed squad at his disposal and had to constantly shuffle his pack.
In the off-season though, the club has never been shy of calling the shots. In the past few weeks, Mohun Bagan's I-League winning coach Kibu Vicuna has reportedly verbally agreed to join the side, meaning that he might bring in some players as well.
Additionally, the loan spells of Nongdamba Naorem, Lovepreet Singh, and Manvir Singh from various I-League clubs come to an end and the trio could also be promoted to their senior squad.
However, in this article, we would look at players apart from the aforementioned who might join the Kerala Blasters for the 2020-21 campaign.
#5 Prabhsukhan Singh Gill (Bengaluru FC)
The goalkeeping department of the Kerala Blasters took a hit after Dheeraj Singh's move to ATK. They conceded 32 goals this season, a number only bettered by Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC.
Rehenesh TP conceded an average of 1.9 goals per game with their second-choice goalkeeper Bilal Khan a touch behind, having shipped 1.4 goals per game. With a respective save percentage of 49% and 53%, neither of them seem good bets if the club harbours ambitions of reaching the play-offs. Thus, the Blasters could look at bringing Prabhsukhan Singh Gill on board.
Having said that, the keeper seems devoid of ISL experience, having made a solitary appearance in the competition, wherein he conceded two goals against ATK.
But, he did impress the Kerala Blasters management when he pulled off miraculous saves against them in 2019 Super Cup for the Indian Arrows. However, Bengaluru FC had already signed the youngster at that juncture.
Hence, perhaps at the second time of asking, a young and hungry goalkeeper, like Prabhsukhan, could be what the club needs to turn around its fortunes.
#4 Rohit Kumar (Hyderabad FC)
Hyderabad FC finished rock-bottom this season and seemed an extremely directionless unit. Rohit Kumar was supposed to pull the strings from the midfield but no clear plan of attack meant that he was left as confused as the rest of the teammates.
This was the third season in the ISL for the DSK Shivajians youth academy product after he played for FC Pune City in the previous two editions. In the 2019-20 season, he made 9 appearances for them and scored a goal and bagged an assist, despite playing as a defensive midfielder.
If reports are to believed, Rohit Kumar has already signed a contract with the Kerala Blasters. The 23-year-old can provide solidarity to the midfield which has been guilty of being porous on a couple of occasions.
A passing accuracy of 88% in his own half means the Blasters could be sure of not losing possession when the ball is at his feet. Just like the club, the youngster will be willing to prove himself on the big stage and make it to the playoffs after a sub-standard 2019-20 term.
#3 Lalthathanga Khawlhring (NorthEast United FC)
Kerala Blasters' previous head coach Eelco Schattorie wanted to bring in Lalthathanga Khawlhring before the sixth edition of ISL began but the three-year deal he signed with NorthEast United FC meant that the above couldn't materialize.
If reports are believed, he is another DSK Shivajians youth academy product who is on his way to Kerala Blasters, thereby following the footsteps of Rohit Kumar. Apart from playing four matches for the DSK Shivajians' senior side in the I-League, Lalthathanga also enjoyed a loan spell with Aizawl FC, where he made a total of 25 appearances.
Like Rohit, Khawlhring is a defensive midfielder by trade but played on the left flank in the 2018-19 season for the Highlanders when they reached the semi-finals. He had a passing accuracy of 91% in his own half in that season and didn't lose possession easily.
Khawlhring was relegated to the bench for a majority of the 2019-20 season and made only six starts. Thus, the 22-year-old would be itching to prove his mantle once again.
#2 Tiri (Jamshedpur FC)
While the previous names are the ones who fell out in the pecking order or didn't have the best of times, Tiri is someone who is very much at his peak, although his side Jamshedpur FC finished eighth in the points table.
Tiri has been in the Indian footballing scenery since 2015 when he played for ATK for two seasons before turning up for Jamshedpur FC. He then plied his trade with the latter for three editions of the ISL. A no-nonsense defender, Tiri averaged 5.7 and 5.2 clearances per game in the fourth and fifth season of ISL respectively.
The Spaniard also averaged at 2.7 and 2.8 interceptions per game in those two seasons. Tiri got injured in the later stages of competition this season, thereby affecting his performances. But, in no way, did it dip his stocks as the Kerala Blasters have reportedly acquired him for the forthcoming season.
A partnership between him and Sandesh Jhingan would be a massive defensive foundation for Kerala Blasters and that could prove to be impregnable.
#1 Nishu Kumar (Bengaluru FC)
The biggest name Kerala Blasters have reportedly managed to bring on board is Bengaluru FC left back Nishu Kumar. The move, if it goes through, would make him one of the highest earning defenders in the country.
Nishu kept eight clean sheets for his club this season and has improved consistently over the past few seasons. The AIFF Elite Academy product made a seamless transition from the 'B' team of Bengaluru FC to the senior team and helped them reach two finals, which included a triumph in 2018-19.
Apart from operating as a left-back, Nishu can also play as a right-back, something which he did in India's World Cup Qualifier against Oman. The defender's ability to strike from long-range enabled him to score a goal apiece in for Bengaluru FC in the last two seasons of ISL. In fact, he even scored a goal on his international debut against Jordan.
The club knows that if it wants to reach the playoffs once again, it needs to solidify its rear-guard. In the recently concluded season, Jessel Carneiro was the lone shining prospect. However, a back-four of him, Sandesh Jhingan, Tiri, and Nishu is every coach's dream. And, Kerala Blasters, if things go their way, might just have found a way to accomplish that.