With just over a month remaining for the opening match of Indian Super League, we discuss whether the much talked-about legends are going to show glimpses of their old self at their age. Apart from age concerns, most of them were long retired from competitive league football activities. These two factors, taken together, can play a pivotal role behind their performance in the coming league.
ISL & MLS – a different ball game
It has become a new trend in world football for the top level players to spend their end careers in leagues like MLS and Australian A-league. When the tired limbs of the players fail to keep up in the competitions of top level European leagues, they find solace in less competitive leagues. But, as far as I-league is concerned, it has seen much more competitions over the years with series of upsets and turn-arounds. The critics can readily vouch for a pacy Indian Super League, with which the players may find hard to set the tempo.
Average age higher than expected
The average age of ISL players is found to be a little more than 28 with the Indian and the International pool of players clearly in distinctive age distributions. The International draft players average near about 30 where their Indian counter-parts are far on the lower side. Keeping this in mind, we set our focus on the age and recent football activities of the 7 confirmed marquee players of the sides-
Alessandro Del Piero (Delhi Dynamos SC)
Recent football activities: The Juventus legend played last two seasons of football in Australian A-League for Sydney FC. The last season, his numbers were not good but satisfactory for a player like his stature. He managed 10 goals and 9 assists in his 24 appearances for the A-league side. His most recent football appearance was as a captain for Hyundai A-League all stars team against Juventus, his club of almost 20 years. But, he played this match for 63 minutes before being subbed off. Though having a pretty decent record in the last two years, it is of doubt whether he can play for 90 minutes regularly in a hectic schedule of ISL.
Joan Capdevilla (NorthEast United FC)
Recent football activities: The former Spanish International left back, who won the World Cup in 2010, found him down the pecking order in team selection during his Espanyol stint in last two seasons. Capdevila, when returned to his parent club Espanyol, made only 10 appearances in over-all season without any significant contribution. Apart from good advertising of Indian football, he is not expected to leave much impression on the field.
David James (Kerala Blasters FC)
Recent football activities: The oldest player to feature in the ISL, David James, is the player-manager of Sachin Tendulkar owned Kerala franchise. He is out of football activities for a long time after he decided to retire after a short spell at Icelander club IBV last year. He went there to gain training experiences mostly as a coach-cum-player and the former English International keeper is expected to reflect his percipience more from the sidelines rather than inside the playing region.
Robert Pires (FC Goa)
Recent football activities: The French midfield maestro was last seen on the field at the 11th match against Poverty in Swizerland on 4th March 2014. Before that, he played his last bit of competitive football for Aston Villa in England, way back in 2011. Though he kept himself fit by training with his former club Arsenal often, he might lack the agility and prowess, he is known for in the field.
Fredrik Ljungberg (Mumbai City FC)
Recent football activities: The Arsenal legend announced his retirement long ago on 24th August 2012, after his disappointing spell at Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse. After he left Arsenal, his career never went smooth at West Ham, Seattle Surrounder and Celtic later. So, the Swedish winger may have come back from his retirement to promote Indian Super League but it would be quite a bit of surprise if he goes on to making significant contribution on the pitch.
David Trezeguet (FC Pune City)
Recent football activities: The French-Argentinian soccer star, though chose to play for France, spent the extreme part of his professional career in Argentina. Last year, he was playing for Newell’s Old Boys on loan from River Plate and scored 7 goals from 24 matches. The player, remembered for his golden goal to lead France into winning Euro 2000 and missing the penalty in 2006 world cup final shoot-out, is now not in his prime but probably the best to bet on amongst the marquee lot as far as fitness and form is concerned.
Luis Garcia (Atletico De Kolkata)
Recent football activities: Here is another big name, who came out from retirement to try his luck in Indian Super League. After a moderate season with Ligue MX side Pumas Unam, the former Liverpool winger decided to hang up his boots on 14th January, 2014. But he decided to renew his ties with Atletico Madrid and signed for the Spanish club owned Kolkata franchise later. Again, it is more likely that he will not feature for full regulation time in all of the matches. Leaving those frowns, Kolkata fans may expect to see a few cut-backs and cut-ins from their marquee signing to please their eyes.
To sum it up all, the foreign stars may have added a tinge of stardom to ISL’s status and will help a ton to promote football for this country, but the Indian youngsters are likely to beat them in pace and strength to make a name for themselves. Nevertheless, it will accelerate the country’s emergence into world football arena as it’s India, who is winning this way or other way round.