Disclaimer- The article represents the views of the author and not necessarily of IFTWC.
The year is 2017. The national team is on a 13 match unbeaten run, second only to Germany. It has qualified for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in eight years. The club team has just won the elusive ISL Title for the second time in 3 years. With 9 goals in 15 matches for the National Team and 9 in 20 for the club, one man’s contribution have been paramount to say the least.
Yes, we are talking about Jeje Lalpekhlua here.
Jeje was on top of the world after the 2017-18 ISL Season. He was at the peak of his powers and was one of the first names on the team sheet, for both club and country. He was all of twenty seven and one would have expected his career soaring to great heights in the coming years and eventually taking the baton from Sunil Chhetri.
Fast forward 3 years and 2020 it is. Jeje is without a club and is on the fringes of the National Team. So what happened exactly in these three years that he went on from being an unstoppable force in Indian Football to being rendered clubless?
Well, a dip in form and a serious knee injury meant that he has now been out of football for almost an year.
Now that he has fully recovered from the injury, Jeje would look to take the next big decision in his career:
WHICH CLUB SHOULD HE SIGN FOR?
Lets take a look at a few clubs for whom Jeje could sign and potentially fit into their system.
1) CHENNAIYIN FC
The most logical decision for Jeje would be to renew his contract with Chennaiyin FC. Having played for Chennaiyin since the inauguration of the ISL, Jeje has racked up an impressive 25 goals in 79 matches, thereby becoming the second highest Indian goal scorer in the history of the ISL. He is a fan favourite among both the fanclubs of CFC-the Super Machans as well as the B-Stand Blues.
With Chennaiyin FC playing the AFC Cup next season, Jeje will get ample opportunities to showcase his mettle once again. Chennaiyin’s top goal scorer last season- Nerijus Valskis has been linked with a move away from the Marina Arena and it opens up an opportunity for Jeje to take back his place in the team, a place which was originally “HIS OWN”.
2) BENGALURU FC
Why should Jeje sign for BFC? Or rather. Why should BFC sign Jeje? Is he as good a striker as Miku? Can he score 15 goals in a season? These are the questions that will immediately pop up in every BFC fan’s mind the moment one links Jeje to BFC.
Well,the answer is simple.Ask any Kyrgyzstan fan😝Everyone remembers that Sunil Chhetri screamer against Kyrgyzstan but just about everyone tends to forget THAT LINKUP PLAY between Jeje and Sunil which eventually resulted in Jeje providing the assist for Sunil’s goal.
To make things clearer, Sunil and Jeje have been playing together in the national team for a good 10 years now and enjoy a telepathic understanding both on and off the pitch.
BFC signing Jeje will have more than one implications.
The first one being- Jeje comes with a massive reputation of scoring goals for fun and secondly, and more importantly, it will help BFC get the best out of their Captain Leader Legend, who struggled a bit last season playing on the left with no proper striker to link with. With Jeje coming in, Sunil would once again be his destructive self.
We all have seen what Sunil and Jeje did together for the National Team. Could we be in for another treat? Let’s hope BFC gets their hands on the prized possession.
3) NORTHEAST UNITED
Northeast United are currently on the lookout for a striker and who better than local lad Jeje.
After the departure of talisman Asamoah Gyan, Northeast struggled to find the back of the net last season. Andy Keogh was brought in as Gyan’s replacement but he failed to live up to his billing. Jeje could just be the striker Northeast are so desperately looking for.
Although Northeast United have always been blessed with quality men upfront like Simao Sabrosa, Elimiano Alfarro, Nico Velez, Bartholomew Ogbeche and Asamoah Gyan to name a few, all of them have impressed only in bits and pieces and have left the club after 1 year of service.
This is where Jeje comes into play. Jeje could be Northeast United’s talisman for years to come, provided that he will also get the support of the fans being a local boy. The whole of India knows Jeje as the ‘Mizo Sniper’ and its time now that he does something which could make his hometown team proud.
4) AN I-LEAGUE CLUB
After an year on the sidelines due to a knee injury, Jeje will not find it easy to get playing time in the ISL. The ISL, being a short league spanning 18 matches, teams need to hit the ground running if they are to progress far in the competition and any player returning from a long term injury will need minutes under his belt to get back to his best. Jeje might not enjoy that luxury in the ISL. This is where he can make a smart decision and join an I-league club for one season. A player of Jeje’s magnitude would be a welcome addition to the I-League and every team in the league would be desperate to get his signature.
Igor Stimach, the National Team coach has also said that players performing admirably in the I-League would surely be noticed and called to the National Team. Thus, there is no reason for Jeje to not join a club from the I-League. In case Jeje performs well next season in the I-League,the ISL teams would themselves be on the lookout for Jeje, come the 2021-22 season.
Jeje has an important decision to make. At 29 years of age, he is no longer young. Provided it’s never easy to make a comeback after a long-term injury, Jeje will have to work exceedingly hard to make his way back into the National Team. The only way of doing that is by scoring goals and for scoring goals, Jeje needs playing time. Jeje can get lots of playing time in the I-League and that is where we think he should spend his next season. If he performs well, he can always come back to the ISL.
VERDICT- JEJE SHOULD JOIN AN I-LEAGUE CLUB.