The 2022-23 season of the Indian Super League wound to a close, with ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) becoming the champion after beating Bengaluru FC (BFC) on penalties in the final. Earlier Mumbai City FC (MCFC) had secured the Shield title after topping the league.
As intended, ISL provided the stage for many an Indian youngster to display his talent and battle it out with experienced foreign players.
Here are four of the best young players of this season:
Sivasakthi Narayanan - Bengaluru FC
By around the halfway mark this season, not many would have expected BFC to make it to the playoffs. But the Blues managed to reach the final courtesy a ten-game winning run sparked by the form of its young forward, Sivasakthi Narayanan.
Despite having a strong Durand Cup – where he scored five goals for BFC on their road to the title – Siva had to bide his time to get his feet right in the ISL.
But once he did, he flourished in Simon Grayson’s system, setting up a sizzling partnership with senior strike partner Roy Krishna. The 21-year-old was so effective that he practically replaced club legend Sunil Chhetri in the lineup.
In this breakthrough ISL campaign of his, where he scored six goals and recorded two assists, Siva was chosen as the ISL Emerging Player for the season and has also been rewarded with a national team call-up.
Lalengmawia Ralte - Mumbai City FC
MCFC’s heartbreaking defeat to BFC in the semifinal shouldn’t take anything away from the scintillating football it displayed for most of the season, where at times they looked nearly invincible.
Part of their success can be credited to Lalengmawia Ralte, the midfielder usually referred to as Apuia, who held together the team’s free-flowing attack line and rock-steady defence.
The 22-year-old from Mizoram, who joined MCFC from NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) the previous season, provided the perfect balance to Des Buckingham’s side as he enabled the team’s strike force, considered one of the best in the league, to thrive up front.
The ISL Emerging Player in the 2020-21 also scored three goals this season, recording his best tally ever in the ISL.
Naorem Mahesh Singh - East Bengal
This was a season to forget for East Bengal, with the Kolkata side finishing second-to-last in the table with just 19 points. To rub salt on the wounds, its cross-city rival ATKMB went on to win the title.
The lone bright spot however was its young attacker Naorem Mahesh Singh, whose performance was the highlight in an otherwise disappointing campaign for East Bengal.
The 23-year-old Manipur-born attacker struck an instinctive partnership with Brazilian attacker Cleiton Silva, who finished four of his assists.
But the standout performance by Mahesh this season has to be the three assists he recorded in his side’s 3-1 away win over Jamshedpur FC. He eventually racked up seven assists in the league, with only FC Goa’s Noah Sadoui and MCFC’s Greg Stewart ending up with more.
Parthib Gogoi - NorthEast United FC
It’s fair to say that NEUFC had an underwhelming season, with just one win from 20 matches.
However, there are a few things worth talking about for them in this forgettable campaign, such as the rise of Parthib Gogoi, the 20-year-old attacker from Assam who sparkled in his debut season with three goals.
His 40-yard swerving strike against Chennaiyin FC, which completely befuddled opposing goalkeeper Samik Mitra, gave us a glimpse of his abundant talent.
Gogoi, who prefers to play on the right wing, promises to play for NEUFC to build the team around.
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