As Gianluca Zambrotta prepares to take the reins at Delhi Dynamos, there is an air of uncertainty around the club. The overhaul of personnel has given rise to doubts over the side’s prospects. It remains to be seen whether Zambrotta can make the relatively new outfit gel. It will be a major achievement if Dynamos repeat last season’s performance which brought a spot in the semi-finals. If there is to be another successful season for Dynamos, here are the five players who could make it happen.
The 36-year-old made 45 saves last season, more than any other goalkeeper in the competition. Playing behind a defence that was often shaky, Doblas provided relief to his side and its fans. His six-foot frame and agility gives him the gifts that will come in handy for a team that has undergone a major overhaul ahead of the latest season. The former Coppa Italia and Copa del Rey winner will provide assured experience to Dynamos. Doblas also had a taste of Champions League football back in 2005-06 when he featured as Real Betis’ first-choice goalkeeper. In the same group as Liverpool and Chelsea, Betis failed to make it to the last 16. But Doblas is probably remembered for his howler at Stamford Bridge which gifted a goal to Ricardo Carvalho. The Doblas at Dynamos is a more reliable presence and Zambrotta will hope he can trust him all season. Interestingly, the goalie is a certified journalist in Spain.
Signed by Dynamos for Rs 41 lakh in the ISL auction last year, Anas went on to become one of the key players in the side. The centre-back was a relative pillar of solidity in an otherwise shaky backline. Despite the purge at the club, Anas kept his place in the squad and looks set to be a part of the starting eleven this season. However, Anas is coming back from a long injury lay-off that forced him to miss the I-League’s latest edition. To ensure his match fitness, the defender has been training with A-League side Central Coast Mariners in the company of fellow convalescing teammate Souvik Chakraborthy. During his teenage years, the Malappuram-born defender kept his football career afloat by working as a rickshaw driver. After spending four years with Mumbai FC, Ana went on to become a defensive mainstay at Pune FC. He will seek to return to his old status in the Dynamos jersey this season.
The former Real Madrid defender has been signed by Dynamos from Real Zaragoza. In the days after his signing, the club sought to present him as a second marquee player. While that can be passed off as a marketing gimmick, following the departure of John Arne Riise and the defensive issues that beset the side last term, Gonzalez’s signing is potentially a narrative altering move. His long experience in the top two divisions of Spanish football could have immense value. Gonzalez is 34 and was on the books of Real Zaragoza until this summer. Although the Spanish defender never represented the senior national side, he collected a number of appearances for the youth teams. Zambrotta is likely to rely heavily on Gonzalez.
The Frenchman is back in Delhi, this time as a marquee player. His displays last season arguably merit his elevated status; Malouda finished the campaign with eight assists. If pre-season form is a fair indication, the former Chelsea midfielder is in fine fettle as he has scored a few times already. For a side lacking players who can be seen as frequent goalscorers, Malouda may prove to be the answer. However, it’s his creative work that will hold greater importance for Zambrotta’s plans. After finishing his time at Chelsea in 2013, Malouda has been plying his trade across continents but there’s nothing to suggest that he is finished as a player. It will be down to the Frenchman to once again show he can rally the troops, particularly now that the side sports a new look under a new manager.
Signed by Dynamos last season, the 22-year-old Ghanaian scored four times and provided two assists in a successful debut campaign. His swift movement will help the Dynamos’ attack, a side that looks a bit short on pace. Gadze has spent the intervening time on loan in Finland with HJK Helsinki. The striker has also represented Ghana’s under-23 side. Since Dynamos have lost most of their goalscorers from last season, it will be interesting to see whether Gadze can deal with the added burden. Despite his impressive showing last season, the Ghanaian did not score after the ninth game of the campaign. Zambrotta will demand more consistency from a man who is likely to start most of Dynamos’ matches. Gadze needs to step up to the plate.