Indian football’s premier competition, the Indian Super League (ISL) has taken some massive strides since its inception in 2014. Fans have witnessed some exhilarating displays over the years and the teams, for their part, have also grown considerably. 

A substantial growth in the popularity of the league followed by some big-money signings in recent seasons mean the business side of the ISL has been skyrocketing.

Having said that, we take a look at the most valuable clubs in ISL:

Kerala Blasters FC - INR 487.42m

The runners-up of 2014 as well as the 2016 ISL seasons, Kerala Blasters FC recruited some smart foreign players, including Vicente Gómez, Gary Hooper, Costa Nhamoinesu and Bakar Kone for ISL 2020-21 season. Hooper, who has played two seasons in the English Premier League, arrived on a one-year deal and remains the most expensive player of the lot. It’s no surprise then that Kerala Blasters are currently the most valuable club in ISL. The investment in Hooper, however, went down the drain as the former Norwich City striker could only muster five goals in 17 games in ISL 2020-21. 

Named after the ‘Master Blaster’ moniker of cricket great Sachin Tendulkar, who briefly co-owned the side, the team has seen some heavy investors including film stars Chiranjeevi and Akkineni Nagarjuna and producer Allu Aravind over the years. As of now, the team is owned by Blasters Sports Ventures Private Limited (BSVPL) and saw a new shirt sponsor in BYJU’S during ISL 2020-21 after ending their five-year association with Muthoot Group.

ATK Mohun Bagan FC - INR 468.68m

ATK Mohun Bagan FC, formerly known as Atletico de Kolkata before their merger with the iconic Mohun Bagan, are the second-most valuable football club in the ISL. The three-time ISL champions have not only got a great foreign contingent but their recent signings like Sandesh Jhingan and Subhasish Bose make them a potent unit. And with the stars of the previous season, Roy Krishna and David Williams, still in the team, it is no surprise that they are second on the list. Ahead of ISL 2020-21, the team announced as their principal team sponsor and the team went all the way to the final, only to lose the title to eventual champions, Mumbai City FC.

SC East Bengal - INR 449.93m

The arrivals of Anthony Pilkington, Jacques Maghoma, Danny Fox and Matti Steinmann had the value of newcomers SC East Bengal pegged at a sizable amount. The arrival of Scott Neville on loan from Brisbane Roar ahead of the 2020-21 ISL season somehow allowed the team to be within the salary cap. With so many new players in the team, the Red and Golds hoped to make a lasting impression in their debut season in ISL 2020-21. But inconsistent performances throughout meant that they finished the season ninth on the table despite the services of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler as a coach.

Ahead of their ISL entry, East Bengal underwent a complete revamp, right from their owners to the manager. Shree Cement now acquires a whopping 76 per cent of the team’s shares, while TYKA Sports were roped in as the new kit sponsors. Established 100 years ago, the East Bengal club also came in with a rich legacy and a fierce fanbase.

Mumbai City FC - INR 408.27m

The takeover by the City Football Group --  a holding company that also has Premier League club Manchester City under its wing -- was bound to take Mumbai City FC’s value to the top among the ISL teams. With fresh capital, the team did some smart work in filing some major holes. The arrival of Hugo Boumous (for INR 1.8 crore), Mourtada Fall, Hernan Santana and even Bartholomew Ogbeche turned out to be a masterstroke as the Islanders went on to win their maiden ISL crown under their new head coach, Sergio Lobera. Not to forget their high-end sponsors like ETIHAD Airways, DafaNews, CISCO and Puma which put them fourth in the list of the most valuable clubs in ISL.

FC Goa - INR 374.94m

Co-owned by Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, FC Goa lost a few of their important players but managed to fill the void by bringing in five new foreign recruits for ISL 2020-21. The biggest signing was Australian centre-back James Donachie. The others in the list include Alberto Noguera, Ivan Gonzalez, Igor Angulo and Jorge Ortiz. In January, the Guars also brought in Adil Khan to solve their issues at the back and his signing guided them to a place in the playoffs where they lost to Mumbai City FC on penalties.

Jamshedpur FC - INR 354.11m

Acquisitions of Nerijus Valskis, Alex, Nicholas Fitzgerald and Stephen Eze remained Jamshedpur FC’s only big transfer business ahead of season 7. Jamshedpur FC had a lot to prove in the 2020-21 season after winning just four of their 18 matches in 2019-20. The team went on to defy odds and were in contention for a place in the playoffs right until the final match of the league stage. They finished sixth in the tally, above the heavyweights like Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC.

Meanwhile, Tata Steel’s presence on the shirt, which is manufactured by Nivia since 2017, and the backing of a group as large as them make Jamshedpur FC financially steady.

Bengaluru FC - INR 347.86m

One of the most popular teams in the ISL, Bengaluru FC has one of the heftiest salary caps as their roster boasts Indian football talisman Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Their foreign roster for ISL 2020-21 season included Cleiton Silva and Kristian Opseth. Meanwhile, JSW Group, through JSW Sport, returned as the club’s principal sponsor, and Puma continued to be their partner this season as well. Bengaluru FC also have one of the most vocal fanbases in the ISL called the West Block Blues.

A lowly seventh-place finish in the ISL 2020-21 season though has brought their value considerably low.

NorthEast United FC - INR 347.86m

The arrival of Idrissa Sylla, Luis Machado, Benjamin Lambot and Khassa Camara remained NorthEast United FC’s only big business and they rightly lived up to their label of being the dark horses of the ISL. The John Abraham-owned team continued to be manufactured by Performax for the 2020-21 season and Federal Bank also continued their association with the club, meaning that the team has a sizeable backing in terms of finances. As for season 7, the Highlanders finished third in tally, which is a significant improvement to their ninth-place finish in the 2019-20 season. The team lost to ATK Mohun Bagan in the playoffs. Khalid Jamil impressed as a coach in a league where teams are not known to work with Indian coaches.

Hyderabad FC - INR 343.70m

Hyderabad FC lost Marcelinho to Odisha FC, which took their team’s value down. The arrival of Joao Victor and Joel Chianese, however, remain their best business this season, while the loan signing of Aridane Santana kept them in line for a decent push after finishing last in the previous season. Hyderabad FC were on their way to rekindle a lost legacy, and while the arrival of Telugu actor Rana Daggubati on the board kept things in the right direction off the field, the Manolo Marquez-led team finished fifth in the tally, missing out on the playoffs spot by just two points.

Odisha FC - INR 327.03m 

Odisha FC, who finished sixth in the 2019-20 ISL season, roped in high profile names like Manuel Onwu, Marcelinho and Steven Taylor ahead of the new campaign. The team however failed to live up to the potential, finishing at the bottom of the table with just two wins out of 20. 

Odisha FC decided to go full traditional for their kits for the 2020-21 season. Designed by T10 Sports, the kit paid homage to the cultural essence of the people and celebrates the Khaanti (pure) Odia spirit.

Chennaiyin FC - INR 324.95m

Two-time champions Chennaiyin FC managed to hold on to their Indian contingent, but at the same time, brought in experienced foreign campaigners in Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev, Jakub Sylvestr, Enes Sipovic and Esmael Goncalves to bring much-needed stability to the squad. All that, coupled with losing a few of their members from ISL 2019-20, meant they had one of the best wage bills for the 2020-21 season. A string of poor performances in the 2020-21 ISL season, where they won just three of their 20 league games, saw them finish eighth in the table; a far cry from what the two-time champions used to be.

Note: The team values have been noted by the market value of the players. Stats have been taken from transfermarkt.

Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @IndSuperLeague