Chennai Plots its moves in advance

Chennaiyin FC has acquired the services of Fikru Teferra. He played for Atletico de Kolkata last season.-RITU RAJ KONWAR

Chennaiyin FC is going about the recruiting job for the second season in right earnest. N. Sudarshan has the news.

In the inaugural season, Chennaiyin FC was the late starter. This season it has been quickly off the blocks. In an attempt to build on the semifinal finish last year, it signed goalkeeper Edel Bete and striker Fikru Teferra from Champions Atletico de Kolkata, well before the auction. Fikru’s signing is significant especially because the club was unable to retain the services of Colombian forward John Stiven Mendoza, who was highly impressive last year.

While retaining the likes of Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh, who formed the dependable Indian core of the side, it was surprising to see Chennaiyin let go of Denson Devadas who played in almost all the matches. So it was imperative for the side to find a replacement and it did so in the form of Bengaluru FC midfielder Thoi Singh and its first local talent Dhanpal Ganesh.

Thoi Singh, a tough tackling midfielder, might also supplement the side in a different way. Last season, manager Marco Materazzi, tried to play Eric Djemba-Djemba in front of the defence to break up play. But the Nigerian’s failure forced him to bring himself on. Singh’s signing has the potential to address that lacuna. Dhanpal, the Pune FC midfielder, has also been making a name for himself and recently earned a call up to the national side too.

At the back though, the side might be short-changed. Last year it had the likes of Mikael Silvestre, Bernard Mendy and later in the season Alessandro Nesta. But of these only Mendy has so far been retained. Silvestre was a constant presence and Nesta’s organisational skills were all too visible. Replacements for them are yet to be identified even as the club has signed Justin Stephen, the Mumbai FC defensive mainstay.

Its frontline however looks fiery. Brazilian Elano Blumer was by far the most impressive of the marquee players and his retention is the biggest boost for the club. In Fikru and Bruno Pelissari, it has an attack that can take on the best of defences.

With a few defensive re-inforcements, the side can emerge stronger than last season.

Key players missing from last season: John Stiven Mendoza, Mikael Silvestre, Alessandro Nesta, Denson Devadas.

New players needed: Of major concern will be to find good enough players at the centre of the defence. Silvestre, in spite of his age, took on the burden of an anchor last season. Then Nesta’s presence gave the side the much needed direction. With both not among the retainees, Chennaiyin has to plug this hole.

Pre-season: The club practically did not have a pre-season last year. Now, ahead of the second season, Materazzi is planning to take the side to Italy for three weeks.