Hyderabad FC will go into the seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) looking to put behind them the disappointing debut season.
Co-owned by IT entrepreneur Vijay Madduri and former Chief Executive Officer of Kerala Blasters Varun Tripuraneni, Hyderabad finished last in the 10-team league in the 2019-20 season with just 10 points from 18 matches. They have left nothing to chance this year as their acquisitions for the upcoming season have been exciting.
Recently, the club have entered into a partnership with Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund to give a fillip to their grassroots level and youth development programmes.
They will kickstart the season on November 23, taking on Odisha FC at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim.
Riding on Spanish power
Though Hyderabad are in partnership with the German giants, they will be pinning its hopes on the experience of Spanish players to take them forward in the gruelling five-month-long league. Of their six new foreign recruits, four are Spaniards. They are defender Odei Onaindia, midfielder Lluis Sastre and strikers Aridane Santana and Fran Sandaza.
The Nizams have also secured the services of some of the brightest prospects in Indian football such as Halicharan Narzary, Lalawmpuia, Sweden Fernandes, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra, and Nikhil Prabhu.
Conceding 39 goals, they held the worst defensive record last season while managing to score only 21 goals. The 33-year-old Santana had a successful 2019-20 season with Odisha FC with nine goals and two assists in 14 appearances. He will team up with compatriot Sandaza, who has the experience of playing at different levels in Spain, the UK, Japan and China. Former A-League forward Joel Chianese too has the ability to make inroads into any defence.
Local forwards in their ranks are young Ishan Dey, Lalawmpua, Liston Colaco and Rohit Danu.
They have also strengthened the rearguard by signing former Jamshedpur FC custodian Subrata Paul, who is expected to be their new first-choice goalkeeper. The other three shot-stoppers in the squad are Laxmikant Kattimani, Labiakhlua Jongte, and Manas Dube.
Hyderabad's midfield, featuring Brazilian Joao Victor, who has played against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in La Liga during his time with RCD Mallorca, and Lluis Sastre, a product of FC Barcelona's famed youth setup La Masia, is certainly strong enough to set their sights higher.
They also have Adil Khan, a regular in the national team, as well as young Mizo Laldanmawia Ralte to pull the strings at the centre of the park.
The other Indian midfielders in the squad are Abhishek Haldar, Sahil Tavora, Halicharan Narzary, Hitesh Sharma, Mark Zothanpuia, Mohammed Yasir, Nikhil Poojary, Souvik Chakrabarti and Sweden Fernandes.
Local, foreign flavour
Onaindia, who has represented various Spanish Segunda B sides like Barakaldo CF, Burgos and UD Melilla, will be entrusted with the task of marshalling Hyderabad's defence. Apart from retaining talented local youngsters Ashish Rai, Kynsailang Khongsit, and Sahin Panwar, Hyderabad have snapped up the 18-year-old Akash Mishra from Indian Arrows and the 23-year-old Chinglensana Singh from FC Goa to bolster their defence.
Hyderabad started their debut season with Englishman Phil Brown at the helm. However, he parted ways with the club midway into the season. Following his exit, assistant coaches Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Xavier Gurri Lopez saw out the rest of the season. After the season, former Bengaluru FC manager Albert Roca took over as the head coach of the club but he left to join FC Barcelona as fitness coach.
It was another Spaniard, Manuel 'Manolo' Marquez, who replaced Roca on a one-year deal. During his two-decade-long coaching career, the 52-year-old has worked with sides such as PB Anguera, AE Prat, CE Europa, CF Badalona, RCD Espanyol B, UE Sant Andreu, and UD Las Palmas B in the Spanish league system.
Goalkeepers: Subrata Pal, Lalbiakhlua Jongte, Laxmikant Kattimani, and Manas Dubey.
Defenders: Chinglensana Singh, Mohammad Yasir, Dimple Bhagat, Odei Onaindia, Nikhil Prabhi, Souvik Chakrabarti, Kynsailang Khongsit, Akash Mishra, Sahil Panwar, and Ashish Rai.
Midfielders: Adil Khan, LLuis Sastre, Sahil Tavora, Laldanmawia Ralte, Hitesh Sharma, Abhishek Halder, Sweden Fernandes, Nikhil Poojari, Halicharan Narzary, Mark Zothanpuia, and Joao Victor.
Forwards: Joel Chianese, Aridane Santana, Liston Colaco, Lalawmpuia, Francisco Sandaza, Rohit Danu, and Ishan Dey.