Can Sergio Lobera bring his magic to Mumbai City FC?
FC Goa’s former head coach Sergio Lobera has been handed the reins at Mumbai City FC ahead of the seventh edition of the Indian Super League. The Spaniard’s Goa team became synonymous with an expansive and vibrant brand of football during his three years at the club.
His time with Goa saw him qualify for the playoffs thrice and his last campaign with the club saw him help them claim ISL’s first-ever League Winners Shield to directly qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League after playing a major role in the Gaurs topping the league phase.
Now tasked with bringing his distinct style of play and philosophy to Mumbai City as their new head coach, it will be interesting to see if he can have a similar effect on the Islanders’ footballing approach. The Spaniard will be taking over the reins at the Islanders from former Portuguese head coach Jorge Costa and he will be keen to take Mumbai all the way to the ISL final – a feat which the club has never managed, unlike Lobera, who led Goa to the 2018-19 final.
Lobera’s first stint in the ISL with FC Goa
Lobera first arrived on Indian shores after being named as FC Goa's head coach for the 2017-18 ISL season. He took over from Brazilian legend Zico and the former Barcelona youth team coach hit the ground running with the Gaurs, wasting no time in inculcating his football philosophy and transforming the team into one of the most entertaining and offensive-minded sides in the country, perhaps even Asia.
The 43-year-old enjoyed a highly productive debut campaign when he guided Goa to the semi-finals before being eliminated by eventual champions Chennaiyin FC. The following campaign with Goa saw Lobera do one better as the Gaurs reached the final before eventually losing the title to Bengaluru FC in extra time. His first silverware with Goa, however, followed soon after as Lobera led the Gaurs to the Super Cup 2019 later that season.
The 2019-20 ISL campaign witnessed Lobera laying the foundations for Goa to finish on top of the league table and secure a historic AFC Champions League spot. The Spaniard, though, wasn’t allowed to enjoy the success with the Gaurs after he, somewhat surprisingly, parted ways with the club just a few matches prior to the conclusion of the league stage of the competition.
Targeting the ISL trophy with Mumbai
However, Goa’s loss seems like it will be Mumbai’s gain. In Lobera, the Islanders have secured the services of a master tactician with a proven track record in the ISL. While at the helm for Goa, Lobera was involved in 29 wins, 11 draws and 16 losses from 56 matches. Goa also finished as the leading goal-scorers in the league during his three seasons with the club and found the back of the net on 116 occasions during his stint – a glowing testimony of his attack-minded philosophy.
Add to that, the fact that Lobera ensured Goa reached the semis in every campaign he managed them and it’s easy to understand why Mumbai – who have qualified for the semis just twice in six seasons – have chosen the Spaniard as their new head coach.
Besides providing the sort of consistency in his team required of title contenders and being a shrewd tactician, Lobera will also look to bring in quite a few youngsters like he did in Goa. With the likes of Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall, Hugo Boumous and Mandar Rao Dessai already looking like they will follow in Lobera’s footsteps to join Mumbai, the spine of his highly successful team seems to have been retained.
That familiarity is likely to be a huge advantage for Lobera and his men once the season begins. Furthermore, with the City Football Group (CFG) now the majority stakeholders at the club, Lobera can expect some more star additions to his squad before the season gets underway and he sets his target on the one thing that’s eluded him during his time in India so far – the coveted ISL trophy.