The Indian Super League has fielded some notable football players, but it’s some of the lesser-known names that have cemented their legacy as ISL’s best players.
The Indian Super League has seen some legends of the game including Alessandro del Piero, Dimitar Berbatov, Alessandro Nesta, Wes Brown, Diego Forlan among others play in the tournament. However, none of these has gone on to become one of the best to ever play in the league as some of the other football players have.
With ISL 2020-21 underway, we take a look at the names who have cemented themselves as ISL’s best players.
Spaniard Ferrán Corominas Telechea, better known as Coro, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest foreign player to ever play in the ISL. The forward is the Indian Super League’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 48 goals in just 57 games. Coro also holds the record for most goals in a single ISL campaign, scoring 18 in his debut season in 2017-18.
He won his second ISL Golden Boot the following season, bagging 16 goals and leading FC Goa to the final, where they were beaten by Bengaluru FC in a nail-biting contest. The Spanish forward finished just a goal shy of winning his third Golden Boot on the trot in season 6 with 14 goals. His numbers alone make him one of ISL’s best players.
He is not only one of ISL’s best players, but one of India’s finest too. India's and Bengaluru FC's all-time leading goal-scorer Sunil Chhetri has enjoyed a distinguished career in the ISL. He began his career in the league with Mumbai City FC and spent two seasons with the Islanders, scoring seven goals for the side and leading them to their maiden appearance in the ISL playoffs.
Following the inclusion of Bengaluru FC in the ISL in 2017, Sunil Chhetri has only furthered his legacy in the league, leading Bengaluru FC to a top-four finish in each of the past three campaigns and guiding them to their maiden title in just their second season in the league in 2018-19. The Indian football team captain is currently the second-highest goal-scorer in ISL history with 39 goals in 74 matches.
A player that shaped the legacy of the ISL in its formative years, Iain Hume was consistently brilliant in the first three seasons of the league. The Englishman led Kerala Blasters to the final in the league’s maiden season, where they were upstaged by ATK in the final. The following season, he joined ATK and was deployed in a more advanced position, which paid dividends as he enjoyed his two most prolific campaigns in the ISL, scoring 18 goals over the course of those two seasons.
In his second campaign, the Englishman led by example and scored twice in the semi-finals, which helped ATK knock title-favourites Mumbai City FC out of the tournament. ATK went on to win their second title in three seasons, beating Kerala Blasters on penalties in the final. Hume returned to Kerala Blasters for a season and then spent a year with Pune City FC, scoring just six goals over those two seasons. The Englishman may not have had a fairytale ending to his incredible ISL career but he will always be revered among the best ISL players.
Brazilian forward Marcelo Leite Pereira, better known as Marcelinho, brought Samba magic to ISL in his debut campaign in 2016 and has since continued to dazzle with his extraordinary skills and prolific scoring ability. The Rio de Janeiro native made his ISL debut in 2016 and made an instant impact, scoring 10 goals in 15 games and winning the ISL Golden Boot.
Marcelinho then moved to Pune City and was sensational for the side, scoring 14 goals in just 31 games. The Brazilian spent ISL 2019-20 at Hyderabad FC and struck seven goals in 17 matches, which saw him surpass Iain Hume as the third-highest goal-scorer in ISL history, only behind Coro and Sunil Chhetri. Marcelinho will be leading Odisha FC in ISL 2020-21.
Perhaps the best centre-back to play in the ISL, José Luis Espinosa Arroyo, or simply Tiri, has been a steady rock at the heart of every defence that he’s played since making his debut in the league in 2015. Tiri was an integral part of the Indian Super League club ATK that won the title in 2016. He then joined Jamshedpur FC where he made 48 appearances and established himself as one of the foremost defenders in the league.
Tiri will represent the newly-formed ATK Mohun Bagan in ISL 2020-21, as he chases a second ISL title that will further his legacy as one of the best players in the league’s history.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Arun Sankar