Top 5 Young Stars who shone in the 2023-24 ISL season

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Vikram Partap Singh was given the Emerging Player of the Season award

Besides the winners and losers, every edition of the Indian Super League also presents an opportunity to find the next crop of superstars, who have the potential of taking Indian football to new heights. The 2023-24 ISL season also saw plenty of young Indian talents who not only rubbed shoulders with far more experienced players but also trumped them in many aspects.

Here, we will look at the top youngsters who had a breakout season in the 2023-24 Indian Super League:

#5 Nikhil Barla

Having played only one match in ISL last season, Nikhil Barla was given chances regularly this season by the former Jamshedpur coach, Scott Cooper. The 20-year-old youngster who hails from Jharkhand proved his talent with his consistent performances in the right-back position.

Barla played 19 matches for the Red Miners and helped his team keep clean sheets in 5 of those matches. Not only was solid in defense, but he also helped his team out in the attacking half. Barla got four assists this season, which is the most by any Jamshedpur player. 

His first assist came in a 2-2 draw against Chennaiyin before he got his second assist in a 5-0 win over Hyderabad. The other two assists came in winning causes as well: in a 4-0 win against Punjab and a 2-1 win against East Bengal.

Moreover, he created a total of 19 chances, averaging two chances per game. Besides that, Barla also made 220 successful paces and was able to make 15 successful tackles throughout the season. 

#4 Nikhil Prabhu

Nikhil Prabhu was rock solid in the midfield for Punjab

The second player on our list is Barla’s namesake, Nikhil Prabhu. The 23-year-old defensive midfielder played only three matches in the 2022-23 ISL season, as he spent the first half of the season on Odisha’s bench, while Goa mostly used him in the Reliance Foundation Development League.

But ISL’s newcomers, Punjab gave him an opportunity this season and Prabhu did not let the team down. The fact that Punjab punched above its weight and finished in the 8th place is because of players like Prabhu, who were always committed in defense as teams found it hard to score against Staikos Vergetis’ team.

Although his primary role is to stop attacks, Prabhu created 10 chances, which is the most by any Punjab player this season. Besides that, he also scored in the 3-3 draw against Bengaluru. Coming to his defensive abilities, Prabhu made 42 interceptions, once again topping the table for Punjab. He completed a whopping 495 passes successfully, had a total of 894 touches throughout the season, and made 31 successful tackles, the highest for a Punjab player. 

#3 Parthib Gogoi

This edition of the ISL was not the first time that Parthib Gogoi got a chance to show his talent, as he got plenty of chances last season, but he was unsuccessful more often than not. This season, fans of NorthEast United got to witness a new and improved version of 21-year-old, who ripped open opponents’ defense from numerous positions – left wing, right wing, and as the No.9.

Parthib scored 5 goals for the Highlanders this season, which is the joint-highest from his team alongside Tomi Juric. A superb start set him up for the season as he scored in all of his first three matches – a 1-2 loss against Mumbai City, a 3-0 win against Chennaiyin and a 1-1 draw against Punjab. He did endure a barren spell in the middle part of the season, but came back strongly to score in a 2-2 draw against Hyderabad and a 3-0 win against Odisha.

Besides his goals, Parthib also gave four assists, two of which came against Odisha in the same match and the other two came against Goa and Chennaiyin. He created 21 chances, which keeps him behind only Nestor Albiach on the list of chance creations by a NorthEast United player.

Unlike last season, Parthib was a lot more confident in taking his chances this time around, having taken 19 shots this season, of which 11 were on target. Out of the 5 goals that Gogoi scored, 4 were shots taken from outside the penalty box, most by an Indian player in a single ISL season.

#2 Jay Gupta

Jay Gupta burst onto the scene in his first season in Indian football

In every sense of the phrase, Jay Gupta burst out onto the scene this season, as hardly anyone had heard his name before he signed for Goa. A former academy student at the now defunct Pune City, Gupta had spent five years in Portugal, where he played for teams in Lisbon like GDS Cascais, GD Estoril Praia B, and Ebre Escola Esportiva.

Being a new name, not many expected Gupta to have any sort of impact this season, but he ended up being arguably the best left-back in the league. The standout feature about his performances was his ability to be the bridge between the defense and attack.

He scored 2 goals in 22 matches, which came in a 3-2 against Odisha and a 1-1 draw against the same team. He also got 2 assists, coming in a 3-0 win against Chennaiyin and a 2-0 win against Hyderabad.

Gupta created 30 chances for the Gaurs, which is a high number for a defender. His industry can be understood by looking at his number of successful passes, 825, which happens to be the most by any Indian player from his team. He also made the most successful tackles by a Goa player, 41, and had 19 interceptions. Apart from that, Jay also had the most number of touches for an Indian player and second overall, only behind Ahmed Jahouh.

#1 Vikram Partap Singh

It might seem strange that Vikram Partap Singh is named on a list of breakout youngsters because his ISL debut came back in the 2020-21 season but the winger played the first three seasons mainly as an understudy to Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte before he carved his own identity this season.

Given the Emerging Player award for his excellent numbers in a season where Mumbai City won the ISL cup and finished runners-up in the race for the League Winners’ Shield, Vikram scored 8 goals and provided 4 assists.

In the league phase, he scored a hat-trick against NorthEast United, got a brace against Bengaluru, and scored one goal each against Chennaoyin and Goa. Then in the knockouts, he netted another goal against Goa. His assists came against Odisha, Jamshedpur, Hyderabad, and Goa. In total, Vikram created 24 chances which is the joint third-highest by an Islander.