Can Roberto make the difference?

Delhi dynamos bank heavily on their marquee player-cum-coach Roberto Carlos.-PICS: DELHI DAREDEVILS

Delhi Dynamos, who finished fifth last season, sport a new look this time. The Carlos-led side will be keen to seize the initiative and make an impact in the showpiece event this year, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

From one icon to another, from Alessandro del Piero to Roberto Carlos, Delhi Dynamos have managed to be in the spotlight at least in terms of hiring the most famous names in the first two editions of the Indian Super League (ISL).

Last season, former World Cup winner and Dynamos’ marquee player del Piero turned out to be a big disappointment. It will be interesting to see whether Carlos, another World Cup winner (2002) and two-time World Cup finalist (1998, 2006), doubling up as a player and manager, will be able to rise to the expectations in the second season of the ISL.

The 42-year-old Brazilian, a dead-ball specialist, may still be able to charm fans occasionally with his swirling kicks, but the ISL will demand much more from its oldest marquee player of Real Madrid fame. The primary duty of Carlos, however, will be to manage Delhi Dynamos, who had some of their pre-season training in Sweden and Denmark. “The preparation has been very intense since Day One when we were in Sweden. The players are improving, getting along on the field, working hard each day to be prepared for the season,” said Carlos.

“The biggest advantage (we had) was to face the European top division clubs. The infrastructure at the camps was also very nice. In the cold weather, we could push harder physically too. It is easier to have hardcore training when it is not too hot,” he added.

The ISL-2 will prove if Carlos has the ability to coach a professional side. The Brazilian’s only experience as a coach was with Sivasspor and Akhisar Belediyespor in the Turkish League in 2013. The ISL being a congregation of top brains and talent from around the world, it will definitely test Carlos’ coaching acumen.

That Dynamos, who had four wins, equal number of defeats and half-a-dozen draws in the inaugural season, had not realised their potential under Harm van Veldhoven and missed making it to the semi-finals by a whisker must be weighing heavily on Carlos’ mind.

Dynamos have retained some good players including centre-back Anwar Ali, left-back Robert Lalthlamuana, the best performer of 2014, Brazilian winger Gustavo Dos Santos, and midfielders Francis Fernandes and Souvik Chakraborty. The presence of talented Hans Mulder and Zodingliana Ralte will also boost their midfield.

The hiring of Norwegian left-back John Arne Riise, the famous attacking midfielder from France, Florent Malouda, Dutchman Serginho Greene, young Ghana forward Richard Gadze, strikers Seminlen Doungel and Robin Singh has made the Delhi outfit formidable.

Dynamos, who finished fifth last season, sport a new look this time. The Carlos-led side will be keen to seize the initiative and make an impact in the showpiece event this year.

* * * `THE TEAM SHOULD GO OUT TO WIN'

Nicknamed `The Bullet Man' for his powerful, swerving free-kicks, Roberto Carlos enthralled fans around the world with his amazing dead-ball skills. "The secret to my free-kick is to practise everyday. If you practise with full concentration, you'll be able to achieve it," said the 42-year-old Brazilian. The marquee player-cummanager of Delhi Dynamos was very happy with his team's pre-season training in Sweden and Denmark. And talking of his priority, Carlos said, "I want the team to be a professional one that goes out to win."

Carlos, who won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid, had good things to say about the ISL.

"Season One of the ISL was a grand success. I have come to make Delhi Dynamos the champions this time. I'd like to congratulate the organisers too for the event.

"I think the ISL will help Indian football. The Indian players will benefit from my coaching. They will be better players when they play for the Indian national team," said Carlos.

Delhi Dynamos open their campaign against FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on October 4.

* * * PLAYERS UPBEAT

Delhi Dynamos' performance last year was a big disappointment. But this year, with some big-name signings, the team looks quite formidable.

Dynamos' left-back Robert Lalthlamuana (above) said that the mood in the camp was upbeat ahead of their opening fixture against FC Goa. "I am sure it (performance) will get better. It will get better with each year. That's why the coach (Roberto Carlos) came here," he said.

"We have great and experienced players with great history, such as (Florent) Malouda and (Arne) Riise. And our coach is a legend!

"Besides that, the technique and intensity of training is something I have never experienced before. I'm very happy with this opportunity," Lalthlamuana said.

* * * THE SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Subhasish Roy Chowdury, Toni Doblas and Ravi Kumar.

Defenders: Roberto Carlos (player-cum-coach), John Arne Riise, Cichao, Anwar Ali, Anas, PrabirDas, Naoba Singh and Robert Lathlamanua.

Midfielders: Serginho Greene, Hans Mulder, Francis Fernandes, G. Vignesh, Zodingliana Ralte, Souvik Chakraborty, Snehaj Singh, Gustavo andFlorent Malouda.

Forwards: Vincius Ferreria, Robin Singh, Adil Nabi, Seminlen Doungel and Richard Gadze.