Pedro Manzi was a revelation in I-League last season for Chennai City. As Akbar Nawas' team raced to a wonderful title victory - the Spanish forward whacked in an incredible league-high tally of 21 goals in 18 matches.
What initially looked like a breezy league win for Chennai turned tense towards the end but Chennai crossed the finish line and won the title with a margin of just one point above second-placed East Bengal. Manzi believes the 2019-20 season, which starts on November 30, is going to be more difficult and picked the team that he believes is the most well-equipped to challenge Chennai's title defence.
"This season is going to be more difficult. Two Kolkata teams (East Bengal and Mohun Bagan), the Kashmir team (Real Kashmir) (are strong) and also, Gokulam (Kerala), for me, is the strongest team in the I-League," the striker told Goal.
It is an indication of his commitment to the fans that Pedro Manzi, the I-League top scorer, chose to extend his contract at Chennai City rather than agree to the offers he received from Indian Super League (ISL) clubs. And his decision was also influenced by the setup at Chennai, where Akbar Nawas and his backroom staff have worked hard to instil a positive football philosophy. He not only extended his stay until 2022 but will now wear the captain's armband as well.
"I had some offers to go to ISL but finally, I decided to stay at Chennai City FC. I am very happy to stay and play for Chennai, this season we have to defend our title and I am the captain.
"Last season we played very good football. The Akbar Nawas philosophy is very beautiful to watch for the fans. This season we have a younger and inexperienced team. He is working very hard to teach new players because it is very difficult to play our style," Manzi said.
Chennai City's Spanish attacking trio consisting of Manzi, Sandro Rodriguez and Nestor Gordillo ripped defences apart last season. Nestor left the club in acrimonious circumstances after claiming that he hasn't been paid bonuses. The player signed for FC Pune City without the approval of Chennai City and the player was fined by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). The Spanish attack has a new member now in Adolfo 'Fito' Miranda.
"I think we will miss Nestor very much because he is a very good player. Nestor, Sandro and I understood each other very well on the field. This season we have a new player in Fito and I think we can get along like how we did last season with Nestor."