The article represents the views of the author and not necessarily of IFTWC.
Sandesh Jhingan recently left the Kerala Blasters after a 6 year long association during which he went from being an unknown commodity in Indian football to becoming the Ministry of Defence in the Indian National team. Inspite of giving his all for the club whenever he took the field, this sad end with the Kochi based club has raised a lot of questions in the minds of the Indian football fans. The two biggest of them all being-
1) Why did Sandesh leave Kerala Blasters?
2) What next for Sandesh Jhingan?
Well, the first will be answered someday by the man himself but as far as the 2nd one is concerned, there have been numerous rumours floating around in the market. While some rumours link Sandesh with big powerhouses of Indian football like ATK and Goa, the others link him with a foreign stint to Germany, Greece or Scotland.
And the moment we hear of an Indian footballer joining an European club, it excites everyone up. And why not? After all there have only been a few Indian players who have taken the big step up and each of Sunil Chhetri, Baichung Bhutia and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu have time and again remonstrated the fact that how it has helped them shape their careers and become better professionals.
So, when a foreign stint helps a player so much, why should Sandesh Jhingan not join a foreign club in case he has an offer from one or has been requested to appear for trials.
Lets take a look at some of the factors as to why Sandesh Jhingan should remain in India and not join a foreign club.
Sandesh Jhingan, by no means is young anymore. He will turn 27 in July this year. And as far as foreign stints are concerned, it is always better to go for one when you are young. Lets take the example of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who went for a 3 year stint at Stabaek ,Norway when he was 22.Any general Indian football fan would think that Gurpreet went there at the right time when he was still very young. But by his own admission, Gurpreet admitted that he was too old by then and it would have been better had he gone there when he was younger. He added that Indian players need to go for foreign stints when they are 15, 16 or 17 and not when they have already established themselves. It is a well known fact in football that a player develops until he is 26 and Sandesh for that matter has already crossed that age. So in case he still wants to go abroad, he will have to make sure that he gets sufficient playing time and that itself takes us to our very next point.
2) REGULAR PLAYING TIME
As we already mentioned,Sandesh Jhingan is 26 and is at the peak of his career. The peak of a footballer’s career generally lasts for a maximum of 6 years unless you are a Messi or a Ronaldo. And Sandesh needs to make sure that while he is at the peak of his career, he needs to play day in-day out. He is getting that playing time here in India, but one can never be sure when he joins a new club, that too a foreign one where all other players are better than you or atleast at your level. In India there is arguably no better defender than Sandesh Jhingan, but that will not be the case at his foreign club as he will have to compete with a lot more players. And if he doesn’t get to play regularly, it will not only harm him but also affect the National Team. We can take the case of Sunil Chhetri when he went to Kansas City and Sporting CP. Sunil said that he was demoted from the Sporting team to their reserves outfit after just one week ,and in 9 months after that ,he did not start a game even for the reserves. Eventually he had to terminate his contract and come back to India. So if India’s best (at his peak) is not good enough to play for the reserves, we can only imagine the difficulty Sandesh will face in case he goes abroad.
3) FINANCIAL STABILITY
The playing career of a footballer is until the age of 32-33 in general and 35-36 at max and in today’s fast growing world, every footballer needs to make sure that he is earning not only for the present day but also for the rest of his life. Every player need to be financially stable.Sandesh is among the highest paid Indian players in the cash rich ISL. He reportedly gets a sum of INR 1.6 crores per annum.In case Sandesh decides to join a foreign club,it is almost certain that he will have to take a significant pay cut and whether he will be happy with that or not is anyone’s guess.There’s a theory floating around in the market that Sandesh left Kerala because of salary issues as the club had asked him to reduce his wages. Although Sandesh has rejected multiple offers from other Indian clubs in the past due to his love for the Kerala Blasters,not wanting to take a pay cut might have been the final nail in the coffin for Sandesh’s relationship with the club. Its true that there are players who play football out of passion and love for the game and it’s very much possible that Sandesh is one of them,but in today’s age, finance plays a big part in the life of every individual and joining a foreign club will surely mean a hefty pay-cut for Sandesh and he might just opt otherwise.
4) A NEW CHALLENGE BECKONS AT OTHER INDIAN CLUBS
It is not necessary for Sandesh Jhingan to join a foreign club in order to improve his game. With India now getting a direct place in the Asian Champions League ,Indian clubs will go head-to-head with the biggest clubs in Asia. Although winning against them will be a herculean task to say the least, every player who plays in such kind of matches will get to know a lot more about his own game and where he lacks. Which Indian fan would not like Sandesh go one-on-one with a certain Andres Iniesta or a Mario Mandzukic. It will be a mouth watering contest to say the least. So Sandesh can join FC Goa who lack a Central defender after the retirement of Carlos Pena, and play in the ACL. FC Goa’s playing style would also mean Sandesh improving his ball playing skills. Sandesh can also join a star studded ATK team and complete in the AFC Cup next season. No Indian club has ever managed to win the AFC Cup but with Sandesh in the back line of ATK, who knows if they might just nick it next season.
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Every club in India would be itching to get Sandesh’s signature, with every single club posing a different challenge altogether. The choice is Sandesh’s to make now.Its upon him to decide whether he wants to create a legacy in India or go abroad. We all hope that he makes the right decision and goes far and wide in his career, scaling heights never scaled by an Indian footballer before.
Good luck Sandesh in whatever you do.