The two time ISL champions finally wrapped up this transfer window in style on the deadline day with the signing of Jakub Sylvestr, their last foreign recruitment of this season.
Chennaiyin FC started off slowly in this year’s transfer window with the retention of their Indian core. A few days later, they suffered a huge blow as their in-form striker Nerijus Valskis and their coach Owen Coyle jump shipped to Jamshedpur FC. Soon, they retained Rafael Crivellaro and Eli Sabiá from last season and decided not to retain the contracts of other foreigners. They also took a shocking decision and parted ways with the “Mizo Sniper” Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Therefore, the Marina Machans was left with a hefty task to find their new gaffer and new foreign contingent to kick start their new season. After a brief hunt, they roped the Hungarian tactician Csaba László on board as their Head Coach and with this, the process of finding the overseas players began.
Chennaiyin usually have the reputation of finding the unknown talents from minor footballing nations. Like always, they didn’t go for the big names in the market this time and stuck to their philosophy. With a little assist from their Manager László, they have managed to transport a mix of talents from Eastern Europe. Now, let us look at the seven foreign recruits of the club.
Rafael Crivellaro (Midfielder, Contract Extended)
The Brazilian Maestro was the find of the 2019-20 season for the Marina Machans. Crivellaro orchestrated the Chennayin midfield and was the prime reasons for the team’s last season turnaround. He alongside Chhangte, Schembri and Valskis brought the goal-scoring rhythm to the team which helped them to reach the finals.
Crivellaro provided 8 assists, scored 10 goals and created numerous chances at the front. He partnered with Anirudh Thapa and kept the midfield busy. The midfield engine completed around 1020 passes and fired the bullets on target for 23 times, the third-most in the last ISL season.
Eli Sabiá (Centre Back, Contract Extended)
The Stalwart Brazilian Defender will be donning the Chennaiyin Jersey for the third consecutive season. And this will be his fourth campaign with the men in blue, having represented them previously in 2016.
Last season, Sabiá formed a lethal partnership with former Chennaiyin FC skipper Lucian Goian and tightened the backline. He also made 19 interceptions, 51 tackles and even scored a solitary goal in the first leg semi-final against FC Goa. This time, he is expected to wear the armband and lead the team.
Enes Sipović (Centre Back, Signed from Umm Salal SC)
The six-foot six colossal defender was the first foreign find of the season for the club and will become the first Bosnia-Herzegovinian player to feature in the Indian Super League. Sipović will be the first choice centre back and will be replacing Goian in the defence.
Enes is a former U-21 Bosnia National team player and has spent most of his years in Romania. He started his senior career in 2009 with Romanian Liga 1 club Oțelul Galați and won the championship for the club in 2010-11.
Later he moved to Belgian First Division club K.V.C Westerlo in 2015; then he had a few stints in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and now will be arriving in India with plenty of Asian & European experience. Considering his tall stature, the Bosnian would easily dominate the air duels and will prove as a threat for his adversaries in the ISL.
Memo Moura (Midfielder, Signed from Jamshedpur FC)
The transfer war between Chennai and Jamshedpur has been one of the highlights of this season. And Chennaiyin finally redeemed themselves in the battle and robbed the Defensive Midfielder Memo from the men in red.
After being part of the furnace for three successive years, Emerson Gomes de Moura better known as Memo joins the two time ISL champions with a lot of ISL experience. This will be his fifth season in India and his presence will definitely bolster the squad.
Memo entered the Indian Super League frame in 2016 and played for Delhi Dynamos. A year later, he signed for Jamshedpur FC and had remained their loyal servant. He had decent last season and made 39 interceptions, 787 passes and 1093 touches.
Esmaël Gonçalves (Striker/Winger, Signed from Matsumoto Yamaga)
Isma was Csaba Lazlo’s second foreign import. The 29-year old Guinea-Bissau forward is joining the Chennaiyin setup after a short Japanese stint. He has a hand full of UEFA & AFC Champions League experience in his brief career and will be a vital addition to the Chennai’s forward line.
He began his professional career with Nice in French Ligue 1and then went on to represent various first division clubs in Portugal, Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Iran.
Gonçalves is a former Portuguese U-17 player and he currently represents Guinea-Bissau National team in the International circuit. He is a versatile forward and has the ability to play anywhere at the top; can be used as a winger as well as a striker.
Fatkhulo Fatkhulloev (Winger, Signed from FK Khujand)
Fatkhulo was a typical Chennaiyin FC surprise signing and the club pulled the strings in a prolific manner. He also fulfils the mandatory AFC player quota rule for the team and has been roped in as a right-winger for the club. The 30-year-old is a Tajikistan Football Legend and has a record number of 68 national team appearances to his name.
In his illustrious career, the Tajik International has won 6 league titles & 5 cup titles at the club level with FC Istiklol. Fatkhulloev is a household name in Tajikistan and thus he will be drawing loads of new viewers to the Indian Super League. He has a ton of AFC experience and would bring the winning mentality to the Chennaiyin camp.
Jakub Sylvestr (Striker, Signed from Hapoel Haifa FC)
The 31-year-old Slovakian International was Chennayin FC’s last overseas deal and he was signed from Hapoel Haifa FC, an Israel top division club. Sylvestr has a good track record and is a proven goal scorer. Csaba has put the trust in the Slovakian and has brought him to India to fill the shoes of Nerijus Valskis.
The Slovakian striker made his professional debut in 2007 with the Slovak Super Liga club Slovan Bratislava and later won the title in 2009. He then travelled to Croatia; tasted victory once again and subsequently made a shift to Germany. In the 2013-14 season, he represented Bundesliga second division side Erzgebirge Aue and won the golden boot.