Chennaiyin FC's star midfielder Rafael Crivellaro was one of the huge reasons behind their run to the Indian Super League (ISL) final last season.
With seven goals and eight assists to his name, the Brazilian was a hit in his first season in the Chennaiyin blue. And he is set to continue as the club's poster boy in the upcoming 2020-21 season as well after penning a contract extension last week.
Chennaiyin had a poor start to the season last time out which saw John Gregory leaving his post as head coach and Owen Coyle succeeding him. However, Crivellaro and his teammates came into their own under Coyle and took the club to the final.
The Brazilian had felt that the reason Chennaiyin were slow to get off the blocks last time out was due to the fact that the entire foreign contingent was new, apart from many key Indian players like Lallianzuala Chhangte, Edwin Vanspaul and Vishal Kaith who had just come into the team. He had stated last season that the it took time for the squad to gel together and that was a huge factor behind their insipid start.
The 31-year-old, however, is optimistic of a better start to their 2020-21 campaign. Though Coyle and last year's topscorer Nerijus Valskis have left the Marina Machans, Crivellaro feels that core of the squad is still intact and that bodes well for the new season.
It must be noted that the likes of Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh, Edwin, Vishal Kaith, Eli Sabia apart from few other key players are all set to continue their association with the club.
"Yes, it is good that most of the core of our squad is intact. Players and coaches come and go, that is part and parcel of professional football. But we need to focus on the positives," Crivellaro told Goal.
"We have seen what we are capable of, in that amazing run of results last season. We need to derive motivation from that and retain the belief in ourselves. ISL is a very competitive league with games coming thick and fast.
"Hence, this time around we will have to be at our very best from the word go. The incredible quality of our Indian talent like Thapa, Chhangte, Edwin and others will make a huge difference."
Safe to say, the playmaker is confident ahead of the new season. The Brazilian is also counting on the incredible team spirit at Chennaiyin FC to hold them in good stead as they go into an ISL campaign that will be markedly different from the previous editions.
With Covid-19 pandemic throwing life out of gear across the world, the ISL will be held entirely in Goa behind closed doors. While this cuts down on travelling, there are other challenges for players including the lack of a crowd and the necessity to stay in a bio-secure bubble.
Crivellaro is focusing on only the positives.
"As professionals, we are used to staying together for long periods, say in hotels. In this case, the travel is negated but that comes with its own sets of pros and cons. We need to adapt as a team and keep our spirits up at all times.
"It is what it is and we need to try and make the best of the situation at hand," he added.
While admitting that 'normal life' as we knew it has been changed, Crivellaro is looking forward to getting back on the field and continue playing football. For being out on the field could be the only 'normal' in the coming campaign.
"The world is a much different place now than it was six months back. We have all had to adapt. I am just thankful that my family and I are safe and healthy, and I have the opportunity to continue doing what I love. I have been keeping myself fit back home, and I am excited about the new season."