ISL: Kerala Blasters signal change in transfer policy

With the arrival of Givson Singh from Indian Arrows, Kerala Blasters have made their intentions in the transfer market clear. 

The Kochi-based Indian Super League (ISL) club, who were once famous for bringing experienced veterans or high profile footballers to India, are currently going through a structural revamp on and off the field. As a result, there has been a change in transfer policy as well. 

Only three years ago did Blasters rope in former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov only to see the reputed player, who was already well past his prime, struggle to make a mark in Indian football. Much was expected from that season with Rene Meulensteen at the helm and two of his former proteges - Berbatov and Wes Brown - in the Blasters squad. The 2017-18 season saw the team finish sixth, outside the playoff spots and excluding Bartholomew Ogbeche, the club has stayed away from splashing the cash on big names since then. 

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The next two seasons saw the team opt for bankable foreign players with the experience of playing in India. While the results failed to improve, the shift in approach was notable.

Fast forward to 2020 - With the club's financials, which was already struggling to register good numbers, taking a hit due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the transfer policy in place right now has arrived at the right time. 

Jeakson Singh India U17
Jeakson Singh India U17

Several Indian clubs have been forced to shut up shop due to financial problems and while Blasters are safe from such a nightmarish scenario at the moment, given the history of football clubs in India and in particular Kerala, it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Indian clubs are still a long way from registering profits at the end of every season. Instead of going for numerous high-profile players, Kerala Blasters are focusing on signing several talented young players who will form the core of the team in the years to come.

Due to the financial crisis brought upon the world by the pandemic, Blasters have asked several players to take a pay-cut. There have also been re-negotiations of newly signed contracts. However, the young players seem to be the one group that seems unaffected as of now.

Nongdamba Naorem Mohun Bagan I-League 2019-20
Nongdamba Naorem Mohun Bagan I-League 2019-20

Aside from Givson, 23-year-old Ritwik Das and 19-year-old Prabshsukhan Gill have joined from Real Kashmir and Bengaluru FC respectively. Nishu Kumar, who has been signed on a bumper deal, is only 22.

The club already has the likes of Jeakson Singh, who played a prominent first-team role last season, and Nongdamba Naorem, who will return to the club after a title-winning loan spell at Mohun Bagan. The club is also home to one of the country's most exciting midfield prospects in Sahal Abdul Samad whose contract runs for two more years apart from the exciting 20-year-old winger Rahul KP.

Young Indian Arrows attacking midfielder Ayush Adhikari is also tied down to the club. 22-year-old Lalthathanga Khawlhring (Puitea) has joined the club from NorthEast United. This is apart from the likes of Prasanth Karuthadathkuni (22) who featured in the first team last season.

It is safe to say that all Indian clubs, including Blasters, will be extremely cautious in the transfer market this season. Blasters have opted to focus on building a core of young footballers and while on-field results may still not be guaranteed, it may give them breathing space in the football business for now. 


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