Odisha FC haven’t enjoyed the smoothest of starts to the Indian Super League. Refurbished from Delhi Dynamos, the Josep Gombau-led team started off with a narrow 2-1 defeat against Jamshedpur FC and suffered the same result against NorthEast United in the subsequent fixture.

The team however made up for the fallacy on October 31, capping off an impressive performance to register a thumping 4-2 victory over Mumbai City FC.

Despite the slow start, Odisha have shown glimpses of brilliance and a certain Aridane Santana has taken center-stage in all of them. Santana, a towering number 9, joined Odisha on loan from Spanish outfit, Cultural Leonesa ahead of the season and has been instrumental in almost all of the team’s attacking moves.

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Born in Vecindario, Spain, the 32-year-old has been a journeyman throughout his career, having represented the likes of Deportivo B, Zaragosa B, Universidad Las Palmas and Leganes early in his career. It wasn’t until 2012 that Satana finally found solidity by joining Tenerife. His performance, which included 25 goals, was crucial to the club’s promotion.

The expedition continued in 2015 when he moved abroad for the first time, to Thailand, only to come back a year later. His homecoming instilled a sense of fresh air as he rediscovered his goal-scoring prowess for Albacete and Cultural Leonesa.

A second stint abroad was on the cards, and the 32-year-old now finds himself playing in India’s premier football competition. To say he has taken to the league like a duck to water would be an understatement- it took him a mere 40 minutes to score his first goal in the league.

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Despite Odisha’s shortcomings, Santana’s approach has perfectly complemented Gombau’s 4-2-3-1 setup. After all, three goals and an assist in three games speaks volumes.

Standing at 6ft 3in, the 32-year-old is strong in the air, and usually comes out on top in an aerial battle for the ball. His brace against Mumbai in particular, not only explains his immaculate reading of situations but also underlines his vivid link-up style. An intelligent no. 9, Santana has a knack for getting into the goalscoring positions and will punish the opposition if they let up even slightly.

Santana has played every minute of Odisha’s ISL action this season, and averages three shots per game. This statistic comes handy for Odisha, who as Delhi Dynamos struggled in front of the goal last season, having scored just 23 goals in 18 games. And as the onus now falls on Santana, it is safe to say Odisha can put up a stronger challenge this season.

Feature image courtesy: Instagram / Aridane9