ISL 2020-21 Player of the Fortnight: Federico Gallego on fire

Federico Gallego has racked up four assists and two goals in NorthEast United’s last four games. The Uruguayan has established himself as the creative fulcrum in the midfield, and his ability to open up spaces has been vital to his side’s success this year.

It was Gallego’s corner that eventually led to Deshorn Brown’s second goal in the victory over Mumbai City FC, which ended the Islanders’ record-equalling 12-game unbeaten run.

Federico Gallego has become a name that is synonymous with NorthEast United. The Uruguayan joined the Highlanders in the 2018 season and was indispensable in their run to their maiden Indian Super League (ISL) semifinal that year. However, his journey was cut short by a nasty injury that saw him suffer multiple fractures to his leg and remain on the sidelines for nearly a year.

Gallego returned to the club for the second half of last season and played 10 games, but he was unable to inspire the side as it finished a lowly ninth. The midfielder signed a one-year contract extension ahead of the seventh season, making him the only foreigner to be retained. He made a subdued start and then missed the majority of the side’s opening fixtures due to a hamstring injury.

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However, the 30-year-old has made a fine return to form under interim coach Khalid Jamil by racking up four assists and two goals in the last four games. He was particularly influential in the 2-1 win over Jamshedpur FC – where he created both the goals – and then followed it up with a peach of a strike against ATK Mohun Bagan in the following game. It was also Gallego’s corner that eventually led to Deshorn Brown’s second goal in the victory over Mumbai City FC, which ended the Islanders’ record-equalling 12-game unbeaten run. Gallego has established himself as the creative fulcrum in the midfield, and his ability to open up spaces has been vital to his side’s success this year. He is the joint third-highest assist provider in the league this season.

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The Uruguayan has struck form at the right time as NorthEast United is now unbeaten in three games, the club’s longest winning run in the ISL. The streak will serve as a massive boost to a side that was in dire straits not so long ago. The Highlanders were on a dismal seven-game winless run that eventually cost coach Gerard Nus his job. Nus’s successor, Jamil, has organised the team in a refreshing attacking style, giving the players the freedom to stride deep into the opposition half. The style of play has seen Gallego, NorthEast United’s third-highest all-time goalscorer, flourish as he has combined extremely well with Luís Machado and Brown over the last few games to carve out plenty of chances.

NorthEast United is currently fifth on the table, level on points with fourth-placed FC Goa. The Highlanders can jump to third spot if they can beat FC Goa in their next encounter.