Erik Paartalu: Bengaluru FC's midfield maestro from Down Under

As Bengaluru sets its sights on defending the ISL title, and completing unfinished business in Asia, Erik Paartalu’s presence will once again be pivotal.

Erik Paartalu joined Bengaluru FC in 2017.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In Bengaluru FC’s (BFC) last two seasons, Erik Paartalu was one of its standout players. Be it in the club’s run to the final in 2017-18 or in the title-winning campaign of 2018-19 -- despite his season having ended prematurely because of an injury -- the 33-year-old was a towering presence at the back of the midfield.

As BFC sets its sights on the difficult task of defending the title, Paartalu’s presence will once again be a vital. “We are all champing at the bit to get started,” the Australian said. “It's a pretty irregular situation for us because we are usually back early for the AFC Cup. That's definitely helped us in the last couple of years.”

“It will be interesting to see if this has any impact. But the way we have been playing and training, it feels like normal again. Hopefully it brings about a freshness in us that we probably didn’t have last year.”

BFC, it seems, has recruited well by adding former Chennaiyin FC superstar Raphael Augusto and bringing back fan favourite Eugeneson Lyngdoh to bolster a midfield that already had Paartalu and Dimas Delgado in pivotal roles.

“That competitive feel has definitely helped us in the pre-season where everyone is vying for a place. We have much better squad depth [than 2018-19]. It gives me more motivation to be in the XI. When you see a signing like Rapha, you don’t worry about your place but get excited about playing with him. It does makes it very difficult for the coach [Carles Cuadrat]. But it is something he is really happy about.”

However, as good as the midfield appeared, Paartalu admitted that it had to become a more potent source of goals to compensate for the departure of star forward Miku. In the last two editions, while the Venezuelan scored 19 times, the midfielders came up with a combined 11.

“It wasn't enough to be honest. Last season, after Miku got injured, we had to find other players to chip in. Sunil [Chhetri] and Udanta [Singh] took a big hit because they had to sacrifice their own positioning to try and score. So we need to be doing a better job from the midfield.”

Ideally, Paartalu would want to be on the pitch every minute of the campaign in order to achieve his targets, but was realistic in his assessment.“Being a foreigner here, you can't be selfish. If it was a normal circumstance, I'll be saying I would want to play every single game. But the way it is, I just want to play as many minutes as possible and chip in with more goals than I did last year (two goals in 14 games).”

“Also the AFC cup is back for us this year and [after the runner-up finish in AFC Cup in 2016] there's always unfinished business in Asia for this club.”

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