Brazilian striker Marcelinho and Spanish playmaker Marcus Tebar, were among the players on the wishlist of Delhi Dynamos FC coach Miguel Angel Portugal for the Indian Super League season - 4. The former top scored for the Dynamos in the 2016 season with 10 goals, including a hat-trick. But the duo signed up for FC Pune City (FCPC) instead and are expected to line-up at the Balewadi stadium for the home team’s opener.
“Marcelinho and Tebar - I wanted to sign for my team and I spoke to them. It was not possible because Pune paid more money. It is proof of Pune’s potential. They have more players with quality, like striker Emiliano Alfaro. I respect Pune City,” said Portugal, on the eve of his ISL coaching debut here on Tuesday.
Dynamos enter the competition after preparatory camps in Spain and Qatar. “Spain was the first contact with the squad, for me to know the character of each player and for them to know our coaching philosophy,” he said. “In Qatar, both sides were familiar with each other and later in Delhi played at the national stadium. We have improved very much in two months and now in the match (against FCPC) we will become aware of our performance level.”
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Asked about what he made of the tournament so far, he explained: “Having seen the competition over the weekend, teams are of similar level. FC Goa and Bengaluru FC won but with difficulty. Every team is of similar level and can compete.”
Ranko Popovic, the Serbian coach at FCPC, has his priorities chalked out. “I want to see how we play after a long break. Preparations were good and the players are excited. After a long break, first match is tricky, everyone is always more careful. We saw in first four matches (ISL 2017-18 season) nobody was playing the way they will at a later stage in the tournament. This is normal,” he said, adding: “I am confident we will do what we expect to be doing (in the opener).”
FCPC’s new coach Popovic, who took over from Antonio Habas during the pre-season, is clear about preference for quality over quantity, referring to the locals/foreigners ratio stipulated for ISL fourth season. “Quality is important, number of players is not important. For me, all players are locals, because they are here to play the Indian leeague. Those in better condition on match day will play. I was very close to fielding seven domestic players due to injuries, fortunately now all are available.”
The Serbian strongly feels that presence of each player, foreign or local, should be creating a positive influence on teammates. “Quality of players chosen should be such that they help Indian football to get better, not just about performance but about how to behave and handle pressure.” He stressed about teamwork over focusing on individuals among the likes of match-winners Marcelinho or Tebas. “We are happy to have them and other foreigners. Idea is to have good competition within the team and find a balance. It is not possible for Marcelino or Trebas to take all the load in every match, they need support. We are a team of 25.”