Given the brevity of the Indian Super League, the provision for a month-long winter transfer window is often questioned. However, to everyone’s surprise, the ISL 2020-21 season has seen clubs making some season-defining deals in January.
With the tournament all set to kick off its playoffs schedule from Friday, March 5, we look back at some of the top winter transfers that pumped in the much-needed fuel into the clubs’ respective Indian Super League campaigns.
A year on from his Indian Super League stint with Bengaluru FC, Jamaican forward Deshorn Brown’s move to NorthEast United not only revitalized his form but also helped the Highlanders secure a place in the playoffs.
The 30-year-old striker struggled for game time at Bengaluru, failing to score a single goal in 10 matches for the Blues this term. Brown, who netted seven times in 20 appearances across all competitions for the 2018-19 winners, mutually decided to terminate his contract with Bengaluru and signed for NorthEast on a free transfer on the dotted line.
While this move was considered a big gamble, the former DC United attacker scored on debut against Jamshedpur, giving interim coach Khalid Jamil a victorious start to his reign. Going forward, Brown scored four times in his next eight games, including a brace against league winners Mumbai City FC that ended their 12-game unbeaten streak.
Deshorn Brown has become a vital cog in Khalid Jamil’s style of play and has forged strong partnerships with Uruguayan attacking midfielder Federico Gallego and Portuguese winger Luis Machado.
Marcelinho’s impact in the Indian Super League has been considered significant, with 33 goals and 18 assists in 77 appearances. With his attacking prowess stagnating at Odisha, a loan move to ATK Mohun Bagan has seen the Brazilian slowly find himself making attacking contributions in the tournament.
A golden boot winner with the now-defunct Delhi Dynamos team in the 2015-16 season, Marcelinho is a versatile player who can play in different attacking roles - a striker, a winger, or as an attacking midfielder.
The 33-year-old played eight matches for Odisha this season but failed to register a goal or an assist in 307 minutes of game time. However, since joining ATK Mohun Bagan, Marcelinho has quickly become one of the strongest performers on the field.
The Mariners' attacking approach didn't have a commanding presence this season, as they averaged approximately two goals per game. With the Brazilian's arrival and Edu Garcia sitting out with injury, the club has been more aggressive in their attacking third. In the process, Marcelinho has seemingly formed a strong pairing with topscorer Roy Krishna.
When a call came for Goa-born Glan Martins to sign for FC Goa, the lanky midfielder didn’t hesitate much and quickly sealed a ‘dream’ switch from ATK Mohun Bagan on a short-term deal.
The 26-year-old began his career with SESA Football Academy in Goa before inking his first professional contract with Sporting Club de Goa in 2014. He signed for the Mariners in November 2020 after a solitary campaign with Churchill Brothers.
While he may not yield goals on a whim, Martins’ tough tackling and passing abilities make him a vital part of a team’s midfield setup, which is quite noticeable in his game time with new employers FC Goa.
While one often searches for creative ways to mark a debut goal for his club, Glan Martins took things up a notch as he struck a thunderbolt strike from approximately 30 meters distance when Goa were 0-2 down near half-time. It was his first start for the Gaurs and the goal is a prime contender for the ‘Goal of the Season.’
The 22-year-old Nigerian forward Bright Enobakhare became one of the youngest foreign players to feature in the Indian Super League when he signed for SC East Bengal. He repaid the faith shown in him with an audacious goal on his first start for the club - his second game - against FC Goa.
A graduate of Wolverhampton Wanderers academy, Bright has been the much-needed injection that Robbie Fowler-coached East Bengal needed this term. They were winless in their first eight games, including three successive losses at the start of the 2020-21 season.
Bright, blessed with incredible pace and splendid dribbling skills, has brought about a change for the Red and Gold Brigade as they picked up three wins following his arrival. Against Goa, the young Nigerian broke past four defenders to open the scoring against the Gaurs. The tie, however, ended with the teams sharing the spoils with a 1-1 scoreline.
With 12 games under his belt, Bright Enobakhare has registered three goals and one assist for East Bengal. While the club finished ninth on the points table, the Nigerian attacker’s signature did bring some respite to the club, and fans will expect much from him next season.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / NEUtdFC