After the success of the initial edition of the tournament, the Indian Super League returned this year with the promise of bigger and better things to come. Apart from bringing up new talent, the tournament had played an important role in reviving the careers of some ex-Indian internationals who had been off the radar of the national side for some time and also weren’t successful in the I-league.The likes of Anwar Ali, Gouramangi Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Ishfaq Ahmed are some of the few players who stand testimony to this fact. Season 2 of the ISL has witnessed some chopping and changing with teams trading and buying players. Unfortunately in this process, some players have been left out.Here is a list of the top 5 ex-Indian internationals we wish played in ISL 2015.
#1 Steven Dias
Often known as the ‘David Beckham of India’, the right winger born in Mumbai was a treat to watch in his prime. His quick feet and pin-point crossing was what separated him from all other wingers in the country.
Dias was an integral member of the Mahindra United squad that consistently did well under the likes of Derek Perreira and David Booth. He played a key role in his team winning the league in 2006 and numerous other trophies. He earned his first cap for the national team in 2004 in the Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
The closure of Mahindra United was a major blow to his career. After that, he played for the likes of Churchill Brothers, Mumbai Tigers and Rangdajied United. He was part of the Delhi Dynamos squad last season and put in some decent performances, but they were nowhere close to what he usually put in.
Dias played 51 times for his country and would have liked to have been picked by any ISL side this season. But that was not to be. He currently plays for Pune outfit Bharat FC and faces a tough future ahead with reports emerging that the club could soon shut down.
#2 Climax Lawrence
Composure was one of the many qualities that this Goan midfielder embodied. Having made his debut for the national team in 2002, Climax Lawrence was an integral member of the Indian side for almost a decade, playing 81 games for his country in the process.
Having begun his professional career at Vasco, Climax then went on to play for the likes of Salgaocar and East Bengal. However, his most successful stint was with Dempo where he spent eight years and won five league titles.
He was known for his direct passing and also his defensive abilities and that is perhaps what led to Atletico de Kolkata signing him on last season. Unfortunately for Climax, he didn’t play a single game for the champions and was eventually released.
Lawrence brings in a wealth of footballing experience into a side and it is sad that none of the ISL teams looked into nurturing that. He currently plays for Mumbai FC in the I-League and is expected to hang up his boots in a season or two.
#3 Deepak Mondal
The veteran wing back born in Noamundi, Jharkhand, has been at the forefront of club and national football for quite some time now. He made his first appearance for the Indian side in 2002 and has since earned 62 caps.
Deepak has played for clubs like Mohun Bagan, Mahindra United and United Sports Club. But his finest moment came when he won the ASEAN Cup with East Bengal.
Right from his early days, Mondal had a reputation of being calm, collected and composed. It is perhaps these qualities, apart from his other skills, that enable him to play with equal efficiency down both wings. He is known for his overlapping runs and his deadly crossing which opposition defences have found hard to tackle.
Deepak played for Mumbai City FC in last season’s ISL and put in some good performances. Unfortunately, no team has picked him up this time around. But that doesn’t bother him. He has faced far more adversity and rejections in life and is now working hard to ensure East Bengal win the I-League next season.
#4 Abhishek Yadav
Standing tall at 6’2”, this striker from Mumbai has always been an imposing presence in the opposition’s penalty box. Born in Kanpur, the forward has enjoyed spells at Churchill Brothers and Mahindra United. However, his most consistent performances have been in Mumbai FC colours.
For his nation, he has done really well. His goal scoring prowess enabled him to bag 17 goals in 62 appearances for the national team. When players like Baichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhteri failed to score, Yadav used to be the man to chip in.
Not one of the skillful players around; Yadav is known for his finishing. And it is this ability that led to Mumbai City signing him last season. In four appearances for the team, he even managed to score once. Unfortunately for him, no offers came from any ISL teams this season.
At 35, Yadav is looking at just about a season or two at the top level and would be ruing not being part of the Indian Super League this season.
#5 Samir Naik
Born in Mumbai, the veteran defender has been playing at the top level for quite a long time. He made his debut for Dempo in 1999 and earned his first cap for the national side three years later.
Samir Naik has played for Dempo for past 16 years and has witnessed the highs and lows of a professional footballer. Along with Mahesh Gawli, who joined the club in 2007, they formed a formidable backline and it is this strong defence that led to the success for the club under Armando Colaco. And it was not just at Dempo, Naik and Gawli played together for the national side as well. The former even captained his country in a friendly in 2012.
At his prime, Naik was well known for his “no nonsense” defending. His grit and determination made it difficult for attackers to breach the defence. At Dempo, he won the I-League a record five times and would have surely loved to have made a similar impact on the Indian Super League. Unfortunately for him, no teams came forward to sign him on for the tournament.
With the likes of NorthEast United and Chennaiyin struggling defensively, someone like Samir Naik could well have made the difference.