Club Owners’ Public Spat; 6 Transfers – Matias Mirabaje, Jorge Costa, Miguel Palanca, Andrija Kaludjerovic, Andre Bikey, Everton Santos

Things are heating up with player transfers in the Indian Super League and it seems as if everyone is feeling that heat including club brass. The transfer of Mirabaje (we’ll talk about it later) to Mumbai City FC seems to have turned the Delhi Dynamos FC Director Rohan Sharma green with jealousy as he criticised the attacker’s fitness levels via a tweet. He even threw in Jorge Costa into the mix by claiming that the Dynamos had rejected him right away.

A single tweet, though, does not a spat make. You need the other side to return the shot across the bow. The CEO of Mumbai City FC, Indranil Das did exactly that albeit with dignity. He schooled Sharma, advising him not to talk trash about former work associates.

I’m a Delhite but I like Das’s rejoinder. Sharma’s tweet, as entertaining as it was, was unnecessary. It was uncalled for and pointlessly critical of two other players. Have no doubt about it, there was malice there and it called for malice in return. This is why Das’s response deserves plaudits. He not only held back a baleful response but kept it civilised. Before I dive into what will probably be an incredibly long and winding post, here are the tweets in case you lot are interested.

Matias Mirabaje & Jorge Costa to Mumbai City FC

You know why Sharma’s criticism of Mirabaje was uncalled for? It was because Mirabaje was one of the highlights of Delhi Dynamos FC’s play last season. I’m sure if he had played six more games, the Dynamos would’ve qualified for the playoffs. As it is, in his 12 games, he contributed 3 goals and 1 assist. That’s a decent return if not excellent.

What the numbers don’t show, however, is how influential he looked in those games. Everything went through him and he made that team click. Initially, when they’d signed Mirabaje, I had doubts but after seeing him play, I was convinced. Mumbai City FC will not only benefit from Mirabaje’s style of play but also his versatility and physicality.

Matias Mirabaje will be the first signing under the new Mumbai City FC head coach, Jorge Costa. Costa will be replacing Alexandre Guimares, who I felt was a very good manager for them even though results in the last season didn’t go in their favour. I wonder if they’ll regret his absence.

I don’t know Costa as a manager but I remember him as a player. If I’m not wrong, he was crucial to FC Porto’s Champions League Triumphs under the uncouth and young Jose Mourinho. I checked it up and found that Costa was the captain of that team. He was a no-nonsense defender whose main attribute was physicality. That is how I remember him.

Costa tends to use the 4-3-3 formation as is popular all over the world right now. The surprising bit is that he tends to set it up offensively. This means that we can expect Costa’s team to be more expansive and attacking in nature than Guimares’s.

Costa’s managerial record is largely okay. His performance when he was the manager of Tours FC (his most recent job – 2017) has been the worst since he lost 15 out of 26 total games. Other than that stint, he has clocked in some decent numbers, winning and drawing more games than losing. While this record isn’t stellar, it is far better than many managers currently employed in the ISL.

Miguel Palanca to FC Goa

Now, we come to the guy who is probably the most high-profile in this post. Miguel Palanca is a former Real Madrid player. While he spent most of his one season at Real Madrid Castilla (their reserve team – Real Madrid B), he did play for the senior team 3 times, debuting against none other than Barcelona! Yep, you read that right. Palanca is a former Galactico and has played with players like Higuain, Raul, Guti, Sneijder, Ramos, Cannavaro, Metzelder, van der Vaart, Saviola, and Casillas. That itself makes a stellar CV.

It is obvious why Sergio Lobera has signed Palanca. Palanca is to be the direct replacement of Manuel Lanzarote who chose to jump ship to another ISL franchise. I expect Palanca to be as good as Lanzarote if not better. He has a similar skillset. He plays multiple positions across the pitch (everywhere except for defence and RM), he can dribble, he can finish, and he can lay it on for others to finish.

Palanca is even well-travelled including to Australia. This means that he’ll be fluent in English which should help him bed in faster. Lobera will expect Palanca to dovetail with Ferran Corominas and supply him just like Lanzarote used to. In fact, Lanzarote and Coro took their time to get an understanding of each other’s style of play. Lobera must be hoping that Palanca and Corominas connect quicker.

Andrija Kaludjerovic to Delhi Dynamos FC

Did I say Palanca was well-travelled? Cross that. Palanca’s travel history is nowhere close to Kaludjerovic’s. Andrija Kaludjerovic, it seems, is a globetrotter. He’s played in his home country Serbia (obviously), in China, in Spain, in Cyprus, in Switzerland, in Australia, in Qatar, in Lithuania, in Thailand, and in Slovenia. That’s 10 different countries, people, and it doesn’t even include India. Wow! This guy must be fun to talk to!

The player just hasn’t been travelling though. He’s been travelling to play football and, believe it or not, his numbers are quite good. Kaludjerovic has played 315 games in his career, scored 125 goals, and assisted 16. That’s nearly an offensive contribution every other game. Rohan Sharma must be patting himself on his back for this acquisition. At least, up until next season when he turns on him on social media.

This is definitely a good signing and all that we need to see now is whether Kaludjerovic can adapt to the Delhi environment. Not everyone can handle the Delhi pollution you know.

Andre Bikey and Everton Santos to ATK

Steve Coppell has gone back to raid his former franchise again to get his defensive go-to guy Andre Bikey. Coppell has a history of depending on Bikey beyond the Jamshedpur FC connection. Bikey was with Coppell in his most successful Reading years.

With Bikey in imperious form last season, Coppell managed to develop the most defensively sound team last season. His mandate with ATK must be to replicate that defensive form, especially considering the goals they leaked last season.

What better way to do this than to get the same defensive rock and place it in the middle of the ATK backline? Defensively, Bikey is very good. Last season, he made more than 7 defensive contributions per game! In 2015, he was even better with +10 defensive contributions per game.

He doesn’t seem much when you see him on the pitch in terms of technical skill. He just looks like a big brute. But, when it comes to defending, the man is very good. I won’t be surprised if Coppell doesn’t build his defence around Bikey. He’s more than worth it.

Bikey will shore up the Coppell defence and upfront they’ll have the new boy Everton Santos. Santos is an excellent acquisition for ATK, especially if you consider his performances for Mumbai City FC last season. Playing in a defensive minded team, he managed to not only score 6 goals but also set up 5 assists for his Mumbai City FC mates.

In fact, that was one of the best seasons of his career in terms of end product. While Santos racks up the numbers in his primary position, I’m not entirely sure that Coppell will play him in his favoured position. He may choose to shunt Santos to the wings to add another attacker into the mix. It will all depend on who he has for the striker’s position.

If he gets a good enough striker, can you imagine what it’ll be like with Santos on the right wing and Lanzarote on the left wing? It would be very threatening for most teams.