East Bengal Club and NorthEast United FC are vying for seasoned Indian defender Raju Gaikwad’s signature, Sportskeeda has reliably learned.
Gaikwad is currently a free agent after his previous one-year contract with SC East Bengal expired on May 31.
Born in Mumbai, Gaikwad has represented East Bengal multiple times in the past. He was a vital member of the Red and Gold brigade between 2011 and 2015, helping the club clinch one Federation Cup, one IFA Shield and four consecutive Calcutta Football League (CFL) titles during that period.
Known for his long throws, Gaikwad also has a good deal of Indian Super League (ISL) experience under his belt, having featured for FC Goa, Mumbai City FC, Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters FC apart from SC East Bengal.
The TATA Football Academy product joined East Bengal from Pailan Arrows (now Indian Arrows) in 2011 before jumping ship to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan four years later.
Gaikwad has also led East Bengal on a few occasions and if sources are to be believed, the Kolkata giants have offered him the captaincy for the upcoming season as well.
Despite being an experienced campaigner in the ISL, Gaikwad, along with fellow defenders Joyner Lourenco, Tomislav Mrcela and Adil Khan, looked sloppy last season.
The SC East Bengal defense was often caught napping and ended up conceding 36 goals in a horrendous campaign that saw the century-old club finish rock-bottom with a solitary win in 20 matches.
Fans were evidently miffed with the team management and most of the players, including Gaikwad, who registered 23 tackles, 11 interceptions, 12 blocks and 23 clearances in 12 appearances.
With their Durand Cup 2022 campaign slated to begin on August 16 with the Kolkata derby against ATK Mohun Bagan, the East Bengal recruiters have very little time on their hands to put together a decent squad.
Gaikwad’s ability to play both centre-back and right-back might come in handy for the Red and Gold brigade, who are believed to have secured the services of Ivan Gonzalez, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Mohamad Rakip and Sarthak Golui.
The hiring process should be expedited once the final draft of the agreement between the club and their new investor Emami Group is signed.
Meanwhile, NorthEast United FC have also initiated talks with Gaikwad. Like East Bengal, the Highlanders will aim to stage a turnaround after finishing 10th in the previous edition of the ISL with just 14 points from 20 matches (three wins, five draws and 12 losses) under Khalid Jamil.
Chennaiyin FC showed no interest in Raju Gaikwad: Sources
According to some sources, Gaikwad’s agent also approached Chennaiyin FC a few days ago.
However, the two-time ISL champions were not willing to sign the 31-year-old, having already roped in much younger defenders like Monotosh Chakladar, Gurmukh Singh, Mohammad Sajid Dhot and Aakash Sangwan.