ISL – Major Signings in the January Transfer Window


January, a crucial month in the middle of the season for teams from top to bottom of the league table to make alterations and changes in their squads. Some teams look to change things in order to get into the top four race, while some teams look to upgrade and improve their squads as they aim for a finish on the top half of the table. Along with strengthening their squads for the ongoing ISL, some teams look for more options on the bench for the upcoming Continental tournaments – AFC Cup and the AFC Champions League.

The January transfer window so far has seen a number of transfers, many of which were even unexpected and came as a surprise to many fans. Swap deals and big signings rained all over the winter transfer window till the very last day of the month.

Let’s have a quick look at all the major confirmed transfers that took place throughout this transfer window and how the teams have shaped up for the remaining part of the season.

Sandesh Jhinghan (ATK Mohun Bagan, Free transfer from HNK Sibenik)

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In a big boost to ATK Mohun Bagan’s backline, India’s ace central defender Sandesh Jhingan rejoined his former club after mutually terminating his contract with the Croatian side, HNK Sibenik. The 28-year-old was a vital cog in the ATKMB’s defense when they made the final of the previous ISL season. But a calf injury marred his time in Croatia as he has returned to ATK Mohun Bagan till the end of the ongoing campaign.

Jhingan’s arrival would boost their chances of winning the Hero ISL crown and also make sure they win the League WInners’ Shield. He is just two shy of 100 appearances in the Hero ISL and has been a losing finalist on three occasions, twice with Kerala Blasters FC and once with ATK Mohun Bagan. Jhingan who was named the AIFF Player of the year for the 2020-21 campaign will be keen to finally get his hands on the title and his presence in the ATK Mohun Bagan only enhances their chances of going all the way. Read more about the deal here.

Nerijus Valskis (Chennaiyin FC, Free transfer from Jamshedpur FC)

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Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis has returned to Chennaiyin FC after securing a move from Jamshedpur FC, the south Indian club announced on Saturday. Valskis who had made the reverse move from Chennaiyin FC to Jamshedpur FC before the Hero ISL 2020-21 season will return to the club where he started his journey in Indian football. After moving to Jamshedpur FC the season after, the Lithuanian has netted 10 goals in a season and a half for the club from Jharkhand.

Nerijus Valskis needs no introduction to the Indian Super League. The 34-year-old Lithuanian has already played for the Marina Machans in the 19-20 season. He helped the club reach the final that season and also won the golden boot in the process with 15 goals. With the arrival of Valskis, Chennaiyin FC will get a major boost in their goalscoring issues which have been a major problem for the team. It is like a perfect reunion for Valskis and the club as it will benefit both of them since the striker was not able to perform to his capabilities this season with Jamshedpur FC. Read more about the deal here.

Daniel Chima (Jamshedpur FC, Free transfer from SC East Bengal)

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Jamshedpur FC completed the signing of Nigerian forward, Daniel Chima Chukwu for the remainder of the Indian Super League (ISL) season. Chima has amassed a total of 273 appearances in his professional football career, scoring 93 goals and assisting another 44 goals. Chima helped Norwegian heavyweights Molde FK to three league titles and guided them to two Norwegian Cup titles during his first stint with the club between the 2010-2015 season under former Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who was in charge of Molde from 2011-2014.

Besides Molde, Chima has also turned out for Legia Warsaw where he played games in the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League. He also had various adventures in China as he played for Shanghai Shenxin, Heilongjiang Lava Spring, and Taizhou Yuanda. Chima signed and played for SC East Bengal in the 2021-22 season before leaving the club to join Jamshedpur FC. Read more about the deal here.

Diego Mauricio (Mumbai City FC, Free Transfer from Al Sahania SC)

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Mumbai City FC have signed Brazilian forward Diego Maurício on a short-term deal. The 30-year-old forward joins the club on a short-term deal till May 31. He joined ISL side Odisha FC in the 2020-21 season and now joins the Islanders off the back of a short stint with Qatari second division side Al Shahania, where he was the top scorer with eight goals in nine games across all competitions. He was also the top scorer for Odisha FC last season, where he racked up 12 goals and 2 assists in 20 games.

Maurício started off his footballing career in 2006 through the famed academy of Flamengo in Brazil before moving onto the first team where he plied his trade until 2012. Over the next few years, he enjoyed stints in Brazil (Sport Recife and Red Bull Bragantino), Russia (FC Spartak Vladikavkaz), Portugal (Vitória FC), Saudi Arabia (Al Qadisiyah), China (Cangzhou Mighty Lions), and in South Korea (Gangwon FC and Busan IPark) before returning to Brazil in 2020 with Centro Sportivo Alagoano.

Vinit Rai (Mumbai City FC, On loan from Odisha FC)

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Mumbai City FC have signed midfielder Vinit Rai. The 24-year old joins the Islanders from ISL club Odisha FC on loan until May 31, 2022. A product of the Tata Football Academy, Rai kicked off his professional career through the ranks at Dempo before moving to the Indian Super League with Kerala Blasters in 2016 and followed it with a loan stint at Minerva Punjab FC in the I League.

In 2017, the Assam-born midfielder made a move to Delhi Dynamos FC (later renamed Odisha FC). Since then, Rai has gone on to become Odisha FC’s most capped player (72) and was also named as one of the club’s captains ahead of the 2021-22 season. In the ongoing season, the midfielder has amassed 8 appearances in the Indian Super League before making the move to the Islanders.

Lallianzuala Chhangte (Mumbai City FC, On loan from Chennaiyin FC)

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Mumbai City FC reached an agreement with Chennaiyin FC for the loan of Lallianzuala Chhangte on the deadline day. The 24-year-old winger joined the Islanders until May 31, 2022. Born in Mizoram, Chhangte rose through the ranks at DSK Shivajians after joining the club at 17. After impressive performances at youth levels for club and country, Chhangte was chosen for a brief training stint at Liverpool FC’s academy at Kirkby, England in 2016. After signing his first professional contract with DSK Shivajians, the pacy attacker made a loan move to NorthEast United in 2016.

After a season in the I League with DSK Shivajians, Chhangte was picked in the 2017 ISL Draft by Delhi Dynamos where he spent two seasons and recorded 8 goals and 5 assists. A brief trial with Norwegian club Viking FK followed for Chhangte before he signed for Chennaiyin FC ahead of the 2019-20 season. In his six seasons in the ISL, the 24-year-old has 90 appearances to his name and is the third-highest Indian goalscorer in the league’s history with 20 goals. Chhangte has 11 caps and 4 goals under his belt in national colors. Read more about the deal here.

Marcelinho Leite (NorthEast United FC, On loan from Rajasthan United)

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NorthEast United FC on loan from I-League side Rajasthan United FC till the end of the season. The Brazilian magician has 33 goals and 18 assists in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). He has played close to 80 matches over a span of five seasons in the league. The forward was awarded the golden boot (10 goals) and had the most number of goal contributions (15) in the 2016 season.

In the following season, he was instrumental to FC Pune City’s run to the semi-finals. He had eight goals and seven assists that season. The 34-year-old has played for Delhi Dynamos, FC Pune City, Hyderabad FC, Odisha FC, and ATK Mohun Bagan. Marcelinho struggled last season. He managed only two goals in sixteen appearances. But the quality he possesses has never been in question. Read more about the deal here.

Marco Sahanek (NorthEast United FC, Free transfer from Nakhonratchasima Mazda FC)

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NorthEast United FC roped in Austrian attacking midfielder Marco Sahanek. The 31-year-old last played in the Thai Premier League for Nakhon Ratchasima for whom he amassed two goals and two assists in 10 games.  Surprisingly the Austrian terminated his contract with the Thai outfit after spending half the season with them. Sahanek has played over 20 matches in the Austrian Bundesliga and 220 matches in the second division of the nation.

In a career spanning several continents in which he has played over 300 matches, the Austrian has scored 64 goals and made 79 assists. Sahanek’s coming in at a very crucial time for NorthEast United FC with them at the bottom of the Indian Super League standings. The former Wolfsberger midfielder is expected to slot into the hole left by star midfielder Federico Gallego who is injured and out for the entire 2021-22 season. Marco Sahanek can definitely bolster the Highlander’s attacking firepower. Read more about the deal here.

Zakaria Diallo (NorthEast United FC, Free Transfer from Al-Shabab)

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NorthEast United FC signed 35-year-old French-Senegalese defender Zakaria Diallo. The defender will join the Highlanders as a replacement for club captain Khassa Camara, whose contract was terminated by the club when he went to represent his country in the ongoing AFCON tournament. Diallo began his professional career with the French side Le Havre’s reserve team in the fourth tier of French Football. After just six months with the club, he moved to AS Beauvais Oise on a free transfer in 2009. He scored once for Beauvais in 22 outings in the 2009-10 season. The defender then put pen to paper with Belgian top-flight outfit Sporting Charleroi.

He made just six appearances for the Les Zèbres before switching sides to Ligue 1 outfit Dijon. The 35-year-old center-back spent four seasons with Les Rouges. In his first season in the French top flight, Diallo made three appearances. He played a total of eight matches in his maiden season with Dijon. Diallo then signed for another French side Brest in the winter of 2016-17 and scored three goals in 40 outings in all competitions for the Pirates. His heroics with Brest earned him a place in the 2016–17 Ligue 2 UNFP Team of the Year. After plying his trade in France for almost eight years, Diallo moved to Major League Soccer (MLS). His arrival will boost the Highlanders’ weak defense.

Fran Sota (SC East Bengal, Free Agent)

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SC East Bengal completed the signing of 30-year-old former Osasuna youth player Fran Sota. An attacking midfielder by trade, the 31-year-old can also play as a right-winger or a left-winger if needed. Mario Rivera, the new head coach of SC East Bengal, is said to be the main man behind his arrival at the club. the Red & Gold Brigade parted ways with Amir Dervisevic to accommodate Fran Sota in their ISL squad.

Having started his career at Osasuna, Fran Sota was a part of their reserves team in the 2009-10 season. Afterward, he played for a number of football clubs in the lower divisions of the Spanish league system. He turned out for Pena Sport FC, CD Varea, SD Logrones, CD Tropezon, SD Leioa, and Racing Ferrol before joining Calahorra CF ahead of the 2020-21 season. Overall, he has made over 280 appearances across a 12-year-long senior club career and has notched over 30 goals and five assists. Read more about the deal here.

Marcelo Dos Santos (SC East Bengal, On loan from Gil Vicente)

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SC East Bengal signed young Brazilian striker Marcelo Ribeiro dos Santos on loan from Portuguese first division club Gil Vicente FC till the end of the season. Marcelo joins the red and gold brigade from Primeira Liga in Portugal, where he was plying his trade for Gil Vicente FC. He appeared in 3 matches for Gil Vincente FC in Liga Bwin but wasn’t able to assist or help the team by scoring goals.

He made his debut for Gil Vicente FC last year in August. Before he joined Portuguese outfit Gil Vicente FC, the 24-year old played for Spanish clubs Burgos CF and Sanse. His arrival will massively help the team that has been clueless in their attack this season. He is a like-for-like replacement for Daniel Chima who parted ways with the club and signed for fellow ISL Club Jamshedpur FC later.

Yaya Banana (Bengaluru FC, Free Transfer from Shabab-Al-Ordon)

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Bengaluru FC signed Cameroonian defender Yaya Banana on a short-term deal, until the end of the 2021-22 Indian Super League season. The 30-year-old replaced Yrondu Musavu-King in the Bengaluru FC squad, with the Gabonese defender ruled out through injury. Banana is a former Cameroon national defender as he represented the Indomitable Lions on 14 occasions. At a staggering height of 192 m, he will be a mountain at the back for the Blues alongside Brazilian defender Alan Costa.

Having started his career with Achille FC Yaounde in Cameroon, the Maroua-born defender moved overseas as a teenager in 2009, to play for Tunisian side Esperance Sportive de Tunis. Three years later, Banana made the switch to France, where he signed for FC Sochaux-Montbellard. Following stints in Switzerland with Lausanne-Sport and Greece with Platanias, Olympiacos, and Panionios, Banana moved to Jordan and signed for Shabab Al-Ordon in 2020.

Anwar Ali (FC Goa, On loan from Delhi FC)

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FC Goa signed highly-rated centre-back Anwar Ali on loan from Delhi FC for the rest of the season. He has been practicing with the team since the beginning of the season. The 21-year-old former India youth international has signed an initial one-and-a-half-year contract with FC Goa after the AIFF cleared the talented youngster to resume his career in August earlier this year. Ali started his career with Minerva Punjab and then went on to play for the India U17 team in the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup. After good performances, the youngster was loaned to Indian Arrows for the 2017/18 season.

He then signed for Mumbai City FC. Another loan to the Indian Arrows followed the following season. The defender played his first game for Techtro Swades United before moving on to Delhi FC via Minerva Academy after a break of over a year where he was barred from playing competitive football by the AIFF in 2019 after he was diagnosed with a rare heart condition. The youngster starred for Delhi FC in the Durand Cup and the I-League Qualifiers in 2021, scoring four goals in the latter, finishing as top scorer for his side.

Seityasen Singh (Hyderabad FC, on loan from Kerala Blasters FC)

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Hyderabad FC have signed Manipuri winger Seityasen Singh on a loan deal till the end of the season. The winger started his career with Royal Wahingdoh in Meghalaya and has played in the Indian Super League with NorthEast United in 2015. He has also been a part of Salgaocar FC and Shivajians in the I-League while also representing Delhi Dynamos in the ISL before joining Kerala Blasters.

The 29-year-old also made his national team debut in 2015 and has since made five appearances for the Blue Tigers. Seityasen has 51 ISL appearances to his name where he has registered five goals and five assists to date. His signing will give Manolo Marquez’s Hyderabad FC some more options upfront considering most of their key attackers like Halicharan Narzary and Mohammed Yasir were injured for a long time in the ongoing season.

Redeem Tlang (Odisha FC, On loan from FC Goa)

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Odisha FC have bolstered their squad with the signing of winger Redeem Tlang, who joins the club on a season-long loan from FC Goa. Tlang made his professional debut for Shillong Lajong in the I-League in October 2013 before moving to NorthEast United FC on loan for the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) season in 2014. The attacking footballer became a regular for the Highlanders during the 2018-19 ISL season, making 19 appearances on the wing.

Tlang scored his maiden ISL goal in the semi-finals of the same season, in a 2-1 win over Bengaluru FC. Odisha FC fans would hope the arrival of the 26-year-old winger would add more quality in attack and help the team post more wins in the remaining season. Odisha FC have increased their arsenal in the attack with the addition of Redeem Tlang alongside Jonathas, Aridai Cabrera, and Jerry.

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