FC Goa had come close to winning the Indian Super League (ISL) twice but it failed to summon mental strength when the need arose. As it begins its campaign in the third season, the club can once again feel that it has the resources to win the silverware.
However, for its dreams to be realised, Goa will look up to a talented group of players. Here is a look at five of them whose names are expected to feature whenever the team's prospects are discussed:
Lucio: He has been retained by FC Goa as its marquee player. His experience at the back should continue to assure the club's fans, even though the team's defence did not perform as well as many expected it to last season. The 38-year-old enjoys a partnership with Frenchman Gregory Arnolin at the centre of defence, and the pairing is expected to be a part of the starting XI this season as well.
Lucio has grown a year older but his long time in professional football would mean that he is still a formidable force at the back. Not only will he be leading the team from the back, Lucio will also be expected to win balls in the air. His 188cm frame and confident demeanour should continue to stand out on the pitch. FC Goa retaining Lucio as their marquee player shows his importance to Zico's plans and Goa will seek to cherish the fruits of Lucio's leadership.
Mandar Rao Desai: A local favourite, Desai has represented FC Goa 26 times in the last two seasons. Playing on the left-wing, the Dempo midfielder has wowed the fans with his pace on the flank. Last season, Desai finished with three goals and two assists.
His ability to dribble past opposition players quickly is highly valued by coach Zico, particularly in a league in which one does not associate speed with many footballers. Desai also shares a bond with the local fans. The Mapusa-born youngster has played only for Goan sides in his career.
Although Desai has represented the Indian national team at the under-23 level, he is still awaiting his senior call up. If he can sustain the upward curve that he has experienced under Zico's guidance, the national cap will not be far away. Before that, it will be interesting to see if Desai can continue to combine with Romeo Fernandes on opposite wings in an exciting, attacking partnership that has brought considerable joy to Goa's fans.
Jofre Mateu: A product of Barcelona's youth system, Jofre is a strong presence in Goa's midfield. This will be his second season with the club. He appeared in Atletico de Kolkata colours in the first season of the ISL and helped his side win the title.
A regular contributor from set pieces, Jofre has shown himself to be a reliable force who links the midfield and defence. The 36-year-old can also contribute higher up the pitch. Such is the level of influence he exerts on the pitch.
With four goals and as many assists last season, there is a growing belief that Jofre could once again feature among his side's outstanding performers. His La Liga experience, of course, sets him apart in a league which still does not have an abundance of players from the top five European leagues. Despite playing in a midfield that contains a number of talented players, Jofre continues to stand out. Goa will hope Jofre's influence does not wane anytime soon.
Reinaldo: The 37-year-old took the ISL by storm last year when he scored seven goals in 11 matches. Furthermore, Reinaldo provided four assists as he finished the season as FC Goa's most successful attacker. The Brazilian's wide-ranging experience, particularly in Asian football, makes him an important figure in the side.
Interestingly, Reinaldo had led Paris Saint-Germain's attack for two seasons from 2003 to 2005. Although he could never establish a presence at the highest level, Reinaldo proved to be a good signing for FC Goa. He was a target man in the final third. Reinaldo was at his lethal best when he struck a hat trick against Kerala Blasters in a 5-1 away win. After his impressive showing last time around, it would be a surprise if Reinaldo does not lead Goa's attack again.
Robin Singh: FC Goa lost to Delhi Dynamos 0-1 last season in the first leg of their semi-final. The man responsible for Goa's loss that day was Robin Singh, the Dynamos' top scorer that season with four goals. Robin had a fruitful ISL 2 with the Dynamos and justified the hype around him.
This season Robin will represent FC Goa. His move to Goa would help his development under the leadership of Zico. The Indian international is tall and left-footed, which can be a deadly combination as his opponents discovered last season. The Noida-born striker has represented India 24 times and scored four goals on the international stage. He has now gained in experience and it will be interesting to see how he works with Reinaldo in and around the opposition box.
First Published On : Oct 4, 2016 19:03 IST