New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): Success in modern-day football is hard to achieve without a balanced midfield. It is one position that could alter the outcome of the game and at the end of a long season, play a decisive role in whether a team wins titles or not. From creating chances, keeping play ticking, and doing the dirty work, modern-day midfielders are expected to be the jack of all trades.
While the Indian Super League (ISL) has witnessed top-quality foreign midfielders running the show for their teams over the years, Indian talents have also made a name for themselves and played an important role in the success of their respective teams. With 12 teams battling it out for the first time in the ISL, players in the middle of the park will be in the spotlight again in a busy and challenging season.
With that, let us take a look at some midfielders that fans should watch out for:
-Adrian LunaOne of the first names on Kerala Blasters FC's team sheet, Luna has been the lynchpin for Ivan Vukomanovic's side since joining the team in 2021. With 10 goals and 13 assists to his name, no KBFC player has registered more goal contributions than Luna since 2021. The Uruguayan has also been the leading chance creator for the Blasters overthe past two seasons.
Besides his silky skills and varied range of passes, Luna has the ability to produce moments of magic, be it a defence-splitting pass or finding the back of the net from the most difficult angles. Having donned the captain's armband in the last two seasons, the KBFC faithful will be hoping for Luna to get third-time lucky and end their wait for silverware.
-Sahal Abdul SamadOne of the finest creative midfielders in India, Samad has been a crucial player for the Blasters in the past two seasons. The Kerala-born midfielder tallied nine goals and three assists during this period, helping the Blasters qualify for back-to-back ISL playoffs for the first time in history.
Much more will be expected of him, after having signed for Mohun Bagan SG. Head coach Juan Ferrando has been utilising the India midfielder in the No. 10 position, a role where Samad has played his best football. Despite having to adapt to a new side and system, Samad will be eager to display what he is capable of.
-Ahmed JahouhVery few midfielders in the league come close to matching the quality that Jahouh possesses. Having been around in the ISL since the 2017-18 season, the veteran will go down as one of the top midfielders to grace the league.
The Morrocan midfield maestro provided two goals and three assists despite usually operating deep in midfield for Mumbai City FC in their League Shield triumph last season. Jahouh also registered the most tackles in the league last season and was second on the list for Mumbai City FC in terms of chances created and successful passes completed, showing how crucial he was.
Jahouh has surpassed expectations and achieved success wherever he has gone, from FC Goa to Mumbai City FC. Do not be surprised if he does so at Odisha FC too.
-Greg StewartNo midfielder has been as productive as Stewart over the course of the previous two seasons. Stewart hit the ground running with Jamshedpur FC in his debut ISL season, recording 10 goals and as many assists. He was the go-to man for the Men of Steel and the team ended up clinching the League Shield.
Stewart shifted base to Mumbai City FC ahead of the 2022-23 season and showcased his quality in the league again. He made 15 goal contributions for the Islanders, winning a second League Shield in as many seasons. Stewart was handed a free role by head coach Des Buckingham last season and the move paid dividends. The Scotsman created 55 chances for Mumbai City FC, a tally bettered only by Mohun Bagan SG's Dimitri Petratos. As one of the prime attacking forces in the team, MCFC will heavily rely on Stewart again to deliver the goods. -Brandon FernandesHaving struggled with injuries in the past couple of seasons, Fernandes was an ever-present and vital cog in midfield for FC Goa last season. He tallied three goals and as many assists as FC Goa narrowly missed out on a playoff berth.
An important player for club and country, the 28-year-old led the charts last season for the most number of chances created by an Indian player. His contributions went a long way as FC Goa netted the second joint-highest goals (36) in the previous campaign, alongside Hyderabad FC. With Manolo Marquez known to play an attacking brand of football, Fernandes could be influential in FC Goa's attacking output.
-Naorem MaheshMahesh was one of the bright sparks for East Bengal FC last season despite the team missing out on the ISL playoffs. The Manipur-born played racked up the most assists by an Indian player last season, that included a hat-trick of assists in a single league game - the first by an Indian.
Despite the team struggling to score goals last season, Naorem was the X factor in East Bengal FC's midfield, creating the most number of chances for the team. The youngster has been in stellar form for club and country in recent times and will be inspired to continue his fine form. (ANI)