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Indian Super League (ISL) teams and their head coaches for 2023/24 season 

Indian Super League (ISL) teams and their head coaches for 2023/24 season 

December 18, 2023

In this article, we take a look at all the head coaches of India’s top 12 premier teams ahead of the 2023/24 season of the Indian Super League (ISL). 

Also read: Top 8 Indian Super League (ISL) coaches of all time

Kerala Blasters FC: Ivan Vukomanovi?

Ivan Vukomanovi? is a former Serbian professional player who started his managerial career in the Belgian Pro League with Standard Liège. After a brief yet successful spell, he was released from his duties citing lack of experience. He then had two more stints with Slovakian club ŠK Slovan Bratislava and Cyprus’ Apollon Limassol FC. 

In September 2021, Kerala Blasters FC announced Vukomanovi? as their new head coach ahead of the 2021/22 season. In his debut campaign, the Serb helped the Blasters break numerous records as they reached their first ISL final since 2016, narrowly losing on penalties to Hyderabad FC. 

Ahead of the 2022/23 season, Vukomanovi? signed a three-year contract extension—a first in the club’s history—set to run until 2025. The Blasters finished fifth in the league in his second season but managed to qualify for the playoffs. A controversial walk-off during the second leg against Bengaluru FC in the playoffs meant the Blasters were knocked out once again. 

Mumbai City FC: Petr Kratky 

Czech-Australian coach Petr Kratky was appointed as the Mumbai City FC head coach midway through the 2023/24 ISL campaign after Des Buckingham opted to move to his boyhood club, Oxford United FC. 

The 42-year-old boasts abundant experience from his time in A-League Men, having served as the Assistant Coach of the Melbourne City senior men’s team from 2021 to 2023. With Kratky as an assistant coach, the Australian outfit managed to clinch back-to-back titles in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.

Under Kratky, expect Mumbai City FC to retain their dominant possession-heavy playing style and continue challenging for top honours in Indian football.

Mohun Bagan SG: Juan Ferrando 

Juan Ferrando started his managerial career at the age of 18. After several stints with clubs in Spain and Greece, and a bacterial eye infection that nearly blinded him, in April 2020, following a full recovery, he was hired by FC Goa as their head coach. 

In 2021, Ferrando guided FC Goa to their first Durand Cup title after beating Mohammedan SC 1-0 in the final. However, in a surprising turn of events, in December 2021, FC Goa announced that Ferrando would be stepping down as their head coach after a release clause in his contract was triggered by fellow ISL club ATK Mohun Bagan. 

In his first full season, Ferrando’s ATK Mohun Bagan were mostly subpar in cup competitions after getting knocked out in the group stages of both the Durand Cup and the Super Cup. However, following a spirited league campaign, where they finished third during the regular season, Ferrando’s boys went all the way in the playoffs, beating Bengaluru FC on penalties to win their first ISL title. 

Also read: Indian women’s football: Before and during Thomas Dennerby 

Bengaluru FC: Gerard Zaragoza 

Bengaluru FC decided to appoint their former assistant head coach Gerard Zaragoza as their new head coach following Simon Grayson’s departure midway through the 2023/24 season. The Spanish tactician is contracted to the Blues till 2025.

Zaragoza previously joined the club in July 2018, only to leave a year later. During his first stint at the Kanteerava, the team enjoyed a stellar campaign, finishing on top of the ISL league table table with 34 points in the 2018/19 season. They then went on to clinch the ISL trophy, beating FC Goa 1-0 in the final.

Seeing what Zaragoza brings to Bengaluru FC in his second stint at the club will be interesting.

Punjab FC: Staikos Vergetis 

In August 2022, then-I-League club RoundGlass Punjab FC appointed the 47-year-old Greek as their head coach on a multi-year deal. Before signing with the club, Vergetis spent nearly a decade managing clubs in his native country. 

In his first season with the club, Vergetis was instrumental in galvanising the team as they romped to their first-ever I-League title, securing promotion for the 2023/24 season of the ISL. In his 25-game stint with the club, Vergetis has maintained an incredible 68% winning ratio, his side having ended their league campaign with 52 points from 22 games. 

It’ll be interesting to see how Vergetis manages his troops ahead of their maiden ISL campaign, given they did show resilience and fight against some of the top dogs in the Indian Super Cup earlier this year. 

East Bengal FC: Carles Cuadrat 

East Bengal FC’s first three seasons in the ISL have been anything but forgettable. After finishing runners-up in the I-League two seasons in a row, the Red and Yellow Brigades’ jump to India’s top-tier has been a rather steep one, with 9th-, 11th-, and 9th-place finishes in three seasons since making the jump, respectively. 

Following lots of internal discussions and brainstorming, the East Bengal hierarchy decided to on-board former Bengaluru FC head coach Carles Cuadrat as their head coach on a two-year contract, starting with the 2023/24 season.

Cuadrat is often considered one of the most successful head coaches in Indian football, having guided Bengaluru FC to their maiden ISL title during the 2018/19 season, breaking numerous league and club records along the way. However, the two mutually parted ways in 2021. 

Following two successful stints as an assistant coach with Aris Limassol FC and FC Midtjylland, the arrival of Caudrat at East Bengal FC as head coach will give his side a much-needed boost. 

Odisha FC: Sergio Lobera 

Odisha FC’s new head coach Sergio Lobera’s name has become a household name in Indian football, having worked wonders with FC Goa and Mumbai City FC. 

During his first stint in the ISL with FC Goa, Lobera helped his side finish third in the league, followed by a semi-final exit in the playoffs, while in this second season, FC Goa finished second in the league and lost the playoffs final 1-0 to Bengaluru FC. They did manage to win the Indian Super Cup that year. 

The 2019/20 season saw FC Goa win the League Winners’ Shield, but once again they missed out on the playoffs. However, despite being top of the table, Sergio Lobera was dismissed from his post midway through the 2020/21 season after several reported run-ins with the club’s board of directors. 

The Spaniard continued to ply his trade in India after signing for Mumbai City FC in March 2020. During his debut campaign with the club, Lobera took his side to both the League Winners’ Shield and the ISL championship. 

After an unsuccessful one-year stint with Chinese club Sichuan Jiuniu FC, in May 2023, Odisha FC announced the signing of Lobera on a two-year deal. 

NorthEast United FC: Juan Pedro Benali 

Since their magical run into the ISL playoffs during the 2020/21 season under Khalid Jamil, the Highlanders have endured two torturous campaigns, having finished 10th and 11th, respectively. 

Ahead of the 2023/24 campaign, NorthEast United FC have announced Spanish manager and football executive Jaun Pedro Benali as their head coach. 

Benali started his managerial career at Madrid-based Las Rozas CF in 1997, before joining Claudio Ranieri as a technical assistant at Atlético Madrid in 1999. Since then, he has worked with numerous clubs across Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, the UAE, Japan and Finland. 

It’ll be interesting to observe whether the 54-year-old can rejuvenate the Highlanders and make a bid for an improved showing this time around. 

FC Goa: Manolo Márquez 

Despite being one of the most consistent outfits in the ISL since its inception, the Guars are yet to win the coveted ISL trophy, having lost two finals and missed out on numerous playoff appearances, although they did manage to win the Indian Super Cup and the ISL League Winners’ Shield in 2019/20. 

After a subpar season last season, where they finished seventh in the ISL and had disappointing runs in the cup competitions, FC Goa decided to on board Márquez as their head coach on a multi-year deal. 

The Spaniard has a proven track record in the Indian circuit, having guided his former employers Hyderabad FC to their first-ever ISL title in the 2021/22 season. Márquez’ team managed a second-place finish during the 2022/23 regular season before losing to ATK Mohun Bagan in the semi-finals on penalties. Thus, making a return to the playoffs should be a bare minimum given the Spaniard’s history with Hyderabad FC. 

Hyderabad FC: Thangboi Singto 

For a club founded just over three years ago, Hyderabad FC have quickly cemented their place as one of the frontrunners in Indian football. Most of the credit for this must go to their former head coach Manolo Márquez, who played a crucial role in turning this club into one of the powerhouses. 

After the Spaniard decided to part ways with the club, having joined FC Goa, Hyderabad FC decided to give the reins to the assistant coach and technical director Thangboi Singto on a multi-year deal. 

Singto previously led I-League club Shillong Lajong FC to three consecutive Shillong Premier League titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and has worked as an assistant coach for clubs like NorthEast United FC, Kerala Blasters FC and Odisha FC. 

Jamshedpur FC: Scott Cooper 

The Red Miners endured a rather difficult season last time round as they finished the 2022/23 ISL season second from last, having won the ISL League Winners’ Shield the season prior under the leadership of Scottish head coach Owen Coyle. 

Ahead of the 2023/24 campaign, Jamshedpur FC have roped in Englishman Scott Cooper as their head coach on a multi-year deal. Cooper has been involved in football management for nearly 25 years, having last served as the head coach of the Philippines men’s national football team. 

For someone who falls in line with the up-and-coming attacking-minded managers, Cooper should make Jamshedpur FC an exciting prospect ahead of the 2023/24 season. 

Chennaiyin FC: Owen Coyle 

One of the most successful clubs in ISL history, Chennaiyin FC have failed to qualify for the ISL playoffs for the last two seasons, having made it to the finals of the 2019/20 season under Owen Coyle. 

After leaving Chennaiyin FC, Coyle led Jamshedpur FC to their first-ever League Winners’ Shield in the 2020/21 season before heading home to take up the head coach position at Queen’s Park FC, where he narrowly missed out on promotion to the Scottish Premiership. Coyle called it quits days later, citing a need to “recharge his batteries”. 

With Coyle having taken a year away from action, it seems the Marina Machans have decided to go with what worked best for them. After two disappointing campaigns, where the club registered two eighth-place finishes, Chennaiyin FC have brought back Coyle on a multi-year deal ahead of the 2023/24 season. 

Rahul Saha

An engineer taking the road less taken. I love writing, live and breathe football, and am always up for a tactical conversation.

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