When Diego Forlan travelled to India three years ago to feature in the Indian Super League (ISL), he knew little about the tournament.
But those three long months with Mumbai City FC gave the former Uruguay star an idea about Indian football and also helped him become closer to Indian players. Unlike the other leagues in the world – with the exception of Major League Soccer in the US – the ISL doesn’t have a relegation system, and Forlan believes it should look at implementing it in the near future.
“ISL and MLS don’t have relegation. But the fact is the owners put in so much money. If your team is relegated, then owners feel that they are pulling money but there is no return. So, that’s one way. But in the future, they should do it,” Forlan said.
On a day when La Liga struck a global three-year agreement with Balkrishna Industries Ltd, Forlan – who was in Mumbai to be a part of the event – made it clear that when teams play to avoid relegation, it’s a different challenge altogether.
“It’s good to win. Of course, if you play for relegation, it’s challenging. It’s different when you play to win the sport and when you are going down, going for second division. It can be tough for the team and the fans. But it should be good, that’s how it happens all around the world. Maybe in the future it will change. I prefer the format they play in across the globe...” said Forlan, who retired from football after a 21-year career two months back.
Having played for some of the top-tier teams in the world such as Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan, Forlan now plans to don a coach’s hat. While he already has a South American coaching licence, he plans to travel to Europe next year to earn a UEFA coaching licence. He, however, is open to coach Indian teams – the national side or ISL franchises – as well. “I had a good time here when I played. So, why not? It would be really nice,” Forlan said.
Mumbai City FC did not extend Forlan’s contract after the 2016 ISL season, even though the prolific goal-scorer wanted to have another go. “I wanted to come back here, but they did not offer me. I did not have the opportunity of coming back to Mumbai, which I wanted to,” he said.
So, after the ISL snub, he went to play in Hong Kong Premier League.
A product of the Uruguayan football setup, Forlan was all praise for the Indian footballers he played with in the ISL – Sunil Chhetri and Pranoy Halder.
In the past, Chhetri played for Sporting Lisbon’s reserve team and aspired to play on the European circuit. But that did not happen. Forlan, however, feels that Chhetri had the talent to be successful in Europe as well.
“Sunil came back very soon. I keep in touch with him. He was a really good player. Maybe had he stayed back in Europe, he would have played in any other team. He did not have the chance. He is a great player,” Forlan said.
“It’s not like he can’t (play abroad) because he is an Indian. No way. I have played with Pranoy and Subhasish (Bose)... They are tough, strong guys. They can put on any other jerseys and play for any other teams,” Forlan said. “If you are good, physically strong, you can play wherever you want... Of course, it’s not easy,” Forlan said.
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