The Indian Super League (ISL) is within touching distance. Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC take centre stage as we commence the 2023/24 season on September 21.
In this article, we look at some of the Indian firepower on display. Mentioned here are up-and-coming talents, seasoned players with points to prove, and superstars looking to replicate their form from previous seasons.
Here are my top Indian midfielders to watch this coming season.
It’s about time we kept an eye on the incredibly hardworking Suresh Wangjam. The 23-year-old recently earned himself a contract extension with Bengaluru FC and will remain with the south Indian outfit till 2028.
Wangjam was a key part of the previous ISL campaign for his side and is touted by some to become a future leader in the BFC dressing room. The defensive midfielder made 22 league appearances last season, playing nearly 2,000 minutes.
However, the former Indian Arrows talent is yet to nail down a starting position for the Indian national team. With the Asia Cup arriving in January, Wangjam will look to make a claim for a starting spot in India’s first eleven.
Another Bengaluru FC midfielder, Rohit Kumar has recently broken into the Indian national team set-up. He made his India debut in an international friendly against Kyrgyzstan in March earlier this year.
Kumar is a box-to-box midfielder with a knack for getting into the opposition box and scoring goals. Last year, he made 19 league appearances for the Blues, scoring three goals in the process. Much like his midfield partner Wangjam, Kumar has also been handed a contract extension and will thus remain with Simon Grayson’s side till 2025.
After a good 2022/23 season, fans will be watching the 26-year-old midfielder closely this season. With the acquisition of Keziah Veendorp this summer, it will be interesting to see whether Kumar is provided sufficient starts.
It’s extremely difficult to look past the opinion-splitting Sahal Abdul Samad, who recently completed a move to Mohun Bagan SG from Kerala Blasters FC. The 26-year-old is also considered an integral part of Igor Štimac’s Indian national team set-up.
Samad started both of India’s King’s Cup matches against Iraq and Lebanon in September. However, there are concerns over the player’s club form. Last year, Samad started 16 league matches, managing just three goals and two assists in the process. His Kerala Blasters side were knocked out of the playoffs in controversial fashion against Bengaluru FC.
This season, Samad will be looking forward to a new chapter in his footballing career with the Kolkata giants.
Up next is FC Goa’s experienced player Brandon Fernandes. The attacking midfielder made the move to FC Goa from Churchill Brothers in 2017 and has become an integral part of his current club’s set-up.
Last season, FC Goa narrowly missed out on qualification for the playoffs, finishing seventh, three points behind sixth-place Odisha FC. Fernandes provided three goals and three assists from 20 league appearances.
This season, Fernandes will look to better his attacking output. He missed a crucial penalty for India in their King’s Cup defeat to Iraq recently. Hopefully, he can put that behind him and look ahead to a successful ISL campaign.
Jeakson Singh is arguably the most important player for both his club and country set-ups at the moment. The 22-year-old Kerala Blasters defensive midfielder starts nearly every game for India. For the Blasters, last year, he started 19 out of 20 league matches.
This time around, expect a similar role for the boy from Manipur, who will aim for good performances before he sits in the engine room for India during the Asian Championships in January 2024.
Mumbai City FC’s Apuia could probably see more responsibility given to him in the 2023/24 season. Last campaign, the young midfielder had the ever-reliant Ahmed Jahouh next to him. Now, with the Moroccan having moved away, a lot of the midfield burden rests on his shoulders.
Last season, Apuia made 17 league appearances, scoring three goals. This time round, fans will be eager to watch him potentially play a more crucial role for both club and country.
Former Chennaiyin FC midfielder Anirudh Thapa will have several eyes on him after completing a move to Mohun Bagan SG this summer. After a long stint in Chennai, many will find it odd to see the box-to-box midfielder sporting the Mohun Bagan colours.
Last year, Thapa made 16 appearances in the ISL, managing two goals and one assist in the process. This season, he may find himself in a slightly deeper midfield role, with Sahal Abdul Samad ahead of him at his new club.
After the departure of Anirudh Thapa, Chennaiyin fans will want Jiteshwor Singh to step up in the coming season. The 21-year-old featured in a defensive-midfield role next to Thapa last year after joining the south Indian outfit from Neroca last summer.
Last season, Singh managed 16 appearances in the ISL, of which 10 were starts. In terms of goal contributions, he managed just one assist without scoring a single goal.
Rowlin Borges has joined FC Goa on loan this season from Mumbai City FC, whom he joined back in 2019 from NorthEast United but has been in and out of the side of late.
Last season, Borges managed 16 ISL appearances but started just two games for the Islanders. Therefore, a loan move is in the best interest of both him and Mumbai City. If preferred in the starting eleven, Borges gives you experience in the middle of the park.
Danish Farooq is yet another interesting case in Indian football at the moment. The central midfielder chose to depart for Kerala Blasters FC from Bengaluru FC in January this year after having seemingly broken into Simon Grayson’s starting eleven.
Before his move, Farooq made 10 league appearances for the Blues. He then made just six league appearances for the Blasters last season, and it will be interesting to see whether he gets the nod more often this campaign.