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Why Jhingan was the Final Piece in ATK Mohun Bagan’s Puzzle

When three-time Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK Mohun Bagan, with all its lure, was forced to stave off advances from East Bengal FC, Odisha FC, FC Goa, Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC to seal the deal for Sandesh Jhingan, the club knew they had to pay “the price”.

After being sidelined for the entire last season, Sandesh Jhingan was adamant on taking his career overseas before the coronavirus outbreak spoiled his plans. His talent and influence in India were unquestionable and ATK Mohun Bagan had to shell out a reported amount of around ₹6 crores in five seasons, excluding bonuses and amenities, to secure the defender’s services.

After ATK’s star central defender last season, Agus Garcia, decided to hang up his boots, the club had to get a like-for-like replacement and roping in veteran Tiri from Jamshedpur FC was a satisfactory import. Hence, buying Sandesh Jhingan seemed more like an exhibition of the club flexing its financial muscle.

However, the multi-crore deal, in essence, was too little a price to pay for the club’s bigger purpose – securing their legacy.

 

ISL’S REVAMPED SQUAD COMPOSITION IN 2021-22

While the central defensive pairing of Tiri and Jhingan looks impenetrable ahead the upcoming season, it will be the season after that the management was wary of.

It was reported in July that the Indian Super League (ISL) had approved a 3+1 foreign player regulation (three overseas and one Asian origin) from the 2021-22 season, eyeing an increase in participation of local players. This meant that an ISL team could have six foreign players in the squad and field four foreigners from the tournament’s eighth season.

This rule required the franchises to cover all their bases adequately and it is evident that ATK Mohun Bagan have done it the best. Even if the club’s 2020-21 foreign recruitments – Edu Garcia, Roy Krishna, Carl McHugh, David Williams, Brad Inman and Javi Hernandez – don’t all stick to the side next season, ATK Mohun Bagan have managed to plaster all their leaks efficiently.

 

A DEFENSIVE MASTERCLASS

After roping in Indian team regular Pritam Kotal from Delhi Dynamos previously, ATK Mohun Bagan have brought in Subhasish Bose from Mumbai City FC this summer, which make their back-three as solid as an Indian backline can be.

With Sumit Rathi and Prabir Das already in their squad, ATK have their full back positions covered as well, which make Tiri redundant in the upcoming seasons. Not only the first team but the availability of Anas Edathodika, Ankit Mukherjee, and Salam Singh make their bench strength deep as well.

Apart from the defence brimming with quality, ATK Mohun Bagan have also ensured their longevity with their signings. In Subhasish Bose (25-year-old), Prabir Das (26-year-old), Sandesh Jhingan (27-year-old), Sumit Rathi (19-year-old), Ankit Mukherjee (24-year-old), and Anas Edathodika (33-year-old), the club now boasts of an all-Indian backline with an average age of 25.67 years.

Hence, the club has its defence secured for the next five years at least, regardless of the changes in the managerial position or the administration.

 

AFC COMPETITION READY

Moving further up the field sees ATK Mohun Bagan having the likes of Pronay Halder and Michael Regin in the midfield, and future Indian team starters like Michael Soosairaj, Manvir Singh and Jayesh Rane in the attacking third.

Hence, ATK Mohun Bagan are essentially the first Indian Super League club to fulfill the vision with which the tournament itself was started seven years back – to get in foreign players to help the Indian talents and not the other way around.

It is quite incredible how signing Sandesh Jhingan has seen every other thing falling into place for ATK Mohun Bagan, who look to start writing a new history come November.

 

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