Kochi: About one-an-a-half-decades ago, Jose Mourinho kick-started his glittering career by guiding little-fancied FC Porto to Champions League glory. Jorge Costa, who captained that iconic squad, is now at the helm of affairs at Mumbai City FC.
Nicknamed Bicho (animal) by his colleagues and fans for his aggressive and physical playing style, Costa is expected to revive the team which managed to reach the playoffs just once in four seasons despite playing attractive football.
The 46-year-old, who took over from Costa Rican Alexandre Guimaraes, has coached several Portuguese clubs including Sporting Braga, Pacos Ferreira and Arouca FC, apart from managing the Gabon national team.
With new coaching staff and new players on board, the Islanders, who stood seventh on the points table last year, wear a formidable look at least on paper and are determined to come up with an improved show this time around.
Romanian Lucian Goian, who led Mumbai in the 2017-18 edition, is the only foreign player who has been retained. The defender, who appeared in 15 matches and scored two goals last year, will represent Mumbai for the third season in a row.
The franchise’s management has reposed its faith in foreigners to protect the team’s backline. Goian will join Serbian defender Marko Klisura, signed from Uzbekistani club Buxoro FK, to form a solid partnership at the heart of Mumbai’s defence. The 25-year-old Klisura has represented his country once.
Fluid midfield combination
Portuguese Paulo Machado, who has regular first team football with FC Porto under his belt, will be entrusted with the task of marshaling the midfield. The 32-year-old has represented the Portuguese national team six times between 2010 and 2013.
Brazilian striker Rafael Bastos, a product of Brazilian top-tier side Esporte Clube Bahia, will be played as an attacking midfielder or winger. Uruguayan Matias Mirabaje, who was a key member for Delhi Dynamos last season, is the other new addition to the Mumbai City’s midfield.
Fine attacking unit
Their attacks will be orchestrated by the African duo of Moudou Sougou and Arnold Issoko. Sougou, on loan from English Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, has played for Ligue 1 heavyweights Marseille apart from representing Senegal 12 times.
Former DR Congo player Issoko, who joined Mumbai from Portuguese club Vitoria de Setubal, is a versatile player. The 26-year-old, who has the ability to switch positions with ease, is expected to make relentless forays through the wings.
Apart from goalkeeper Amrinder Singh and young defender Davinder Singh, all other Indians in Mumbai’s line-up are new recruits. Three proven stars from West Bengal: India international left-back Subhasish Bose, former Jamshedpur FC full-back Souvik Ghosh, and holding midfielder Souvik Chakraborty, give the coach too many defensive options to choose form.