Juan Pedro Benali joins NorthEast United as the new head coach ahead of ISL 2023-24

NorthEast United would be hoping for a fresh start under the tutelage of Juan Pedro Benali

Ahead of the 2023-24 Indian Super League season, NorthEast United has appointed Juan Pedro Benali as the new head coach and the Spaniard has signed a contract that lasts until the end of the 2024-25 season.

The Highlanders had a tumultuous time as they could only collect 5 points in 20 matches in the whole season with only one win against their name. The teams in ninth and ten positions collected 19 points each signifying the gap in quality of performances. 

With another side, the 2022-23 I-League champions Punjab making it a 12-team league, it would be important for the Guwahati-based side to bounce back after an unsuccessful season. Juan Pedro Benali is delighted to join the club and hopes to build a squad that can finally challenge for one of the top positions in the league. 

He said, “It is a great honour for me to accept the appointment as the Head Coach of NEUFC. I am incredibly excited to embark on this journey with the Club as we look to build a competitive team that can challenge at the highest of levels.”

The 54-year old further talked about how the northeast region of the country is a gold mine for discovering football talent and hoped to delight the fans throughout the upcoming season. 

He continued,

“The Northeast region is the heart of Indian football and is home to some of the country’s best footballing talent that we will look to nurture. The region also has very passionate and knowledgeable fans, and I will try my best to make them proud.”

After reaching the semi-final of the Arab Cup with SCC Mohammedia in 2001, Benali joined Qatari club Al-Gharafa where he led the club to a second-finish place in the league but missed out on winning the league due to an inferior goal difference.

In 2003, the head coach won the UAE Cup with Sharjah and eventually went on to join Vissel Kobe in 2006 where he helped the club get promoted to the J-League, the first tier of football in Japan.

Whilst this is the first time the Spanish coach would be plying his trade in India, the experienced coach has many connections with the players and coaches who have been a part of the ISL in the last few seasons.

Mr. Benali expanded on the same,

“I have diligently followed the league, observing many players who have either played alongside me or competed against me such as Hugo Boumous, Noah Sadaoui, Mourtada Fall, and Zaid Krouch. As well as having the pleasure of working alongside distinguished professionals like Sergio Lobera, Stuart Baxter, and Miguel Ángel Portugal who competed in this league.”

Apart from the trophies, the head coach is celebrated as an academy chief and his skills would be certainly put to use by NorthEast United who could do with a few talents after failing to retain any of their top players over the last few seasons. Benali has also served as the technical assistant of the Finnish national team.

Club CEO Mandar Tamhane welcomed the celebrated coach to the club saying,

“We are delighted to welcome Juan to the Club. Not only is Juan a fantastic coach and a master tactician, but he also has the unique experience of managing in three different continents across the world. 

He concluded,

“The diversity of the teams he has coached is a testament to his evolving tactical style and his knowledge of the global footballing landscape. His experience at the Youth level will also help us in creating a pathway for the talent from the region.”