Parimatch News Exclusive- Carles Cuadrat: Kerala Blasters fans have always impressed me

Carles Cuadrat oversees training at his new club

The 2021-22 season of the Indian Super League is less than a week away and the football fans in the country are excited to see their clubs take the field in Goa albeit without the presence of crowds in the stadiums.

With the limit on the overseas players reduced to 4 in the starting XI and 6 in the squad, the ISL clubs are under increased pressure to integrate the young talents from their youth academies. 

Many clubs including former champions Chennaiyin and Bengaluru have revamped their squads ahead of the new season whilst teams like ATK Mohun Bagan, Hyderabad, and Goa have made minimal improvements after retaining their core from the 2020-21 ISL season.

In an exclusive interview with Mohak Arora of Parimatch News, Carles Cuadrat, who was in charge of the Bengaluru ship when they lifted the 2018-19 ISL title discussed the favorites, black horses, and the transfers ahead of the upcoming league season.

The former Bengaluru manager pointed out that no team has won the ISL two seasons in a row and Mumbai City might find out that it’s tough to make it to the playoffs after lifting the title. He said,

“It is very interesting to see that in the history of the ISL, the champions have never won again the following year. In reality, only the ATK Mohun Bagan under Antonio Habas (in 2015 and 2021) and Bengaluru FC (2020) from when I was his coach have managed to be in the semifinals again after being Champions.”

“This shows how difficult this competition is and what it costs to have a Champion team that is consistent over time. I think Mumbai City has a difficult ballot to defend, since they were winners of the league stage and the playoffs, and they will want to maintain that superiority with a new coach in the country and with important changes in their squad.”

Cuadrat stressed the importance of retaining a core within the squad, hence naming ATK Mohun Bagan and Goa as the favorites ahead of the new season. He said,

“I believe a lot in teams that start from a players/coach core that has already been together for a while, and in that sense, I think ATKMB and Goa start with a certain advantage. Teams like Hyderabad, Jamshedpur, Kerala (Blasters), and NorthEast (United) with experienced ISL players will also be interesting to watch closely. An exciting championship awaits us, there is no doubt about that.”

The Spanish manager also discussed the new signings of clubs like Odisha, Chennaiyin, East Bengal, and Bengaluru who have brought in overseas players with no experience of playing in Asian or Indian conditions. Carles said,

“Many interesting players are arriving as expectant new signings to the ISL. It will be very interesting to see how they adapt to a new country and a new competition, but players who have been good scorers in other leagues will surely also be able to do so in this league. As we have seen with players like Coro, Angulo, Le Fondre, Ogbeche, and Miku, who always scored goals where they went and continued to do so here too, to the delight of the Indian football fans.”

Also read: Bengaluru to make a charge for the ISL title under their new manager Marco Pezzaiouli? 

When asked about the best signing of the transfer window according to Mr. Cuadrat, the 53-year old said,

“If we look at the last  few ISL editions, there is a player who has already been playing here for 4 years, and who is undoubtedly the most decisive offensive player in the competition. In 58 games in the ISL, he has already scored 19 goals and provided 26 assists winning the MVP award in the competition in the last 2 league seasons. He has been an important part of the Goa and Mumbai City sides both winning the regular league seasons in the last two years. At only 26 years old, if Hugo Boumous does not suffer injuries or setbacks, he will be a player who will continue to make a difference in the attacking game of his teams.”

When quizzed about which side can emerge as the dark horses in the upcoming league season, Cuadrat quipped,

“I believe that Kerala Blasters finally has to make a season that responds to the great passion that its fans feel for the team. I have to say that the Manjappada fans have always impressed me every time we have played them even without the team not giving them much joy during that time.”

The Aris Limassol head coach talked about the Blasters’ new signings and their young talents combining to possibly help the Yellow Army make it to the playoffs. He concluded,

“For the next season, I see that they are going to have three very good professionals who helped me a lot to make us Champions with Bengaluru FC in 2019, Nishu, Khabra, and Chencho. And also, with their young talents like Sahal Abdul, Rahul KP, and Jeakson Singh, and quality foreigners like Jorge Pereyra and Alvaro Vazquez, I think that the team can finally give joy to its unconditional fans.”