Two semifinals and two finals in five seasons. No team in Indian Super League history has displayed the consistency of the Gaurs. It is something that they are very proud of along the coast of Goa but the failure to convert any of those playoff appearances into a title win rankles. The Super Cup victory last season was just reward for years of endeavour but the league title is the one that everyone associated with FC Goa crave.
Such a victory would be an antithesis to the pragmatism that all title winning sides in the past five years have displayed and for that, it would be universally welcome. Zico’s sides played with some flair, in the first two years especially, but ever since Sergio Lobera took over in 2017, Goa has become most neutrals’ favourite team. Their football is eminently watchable in a league where drab affairs are never too far away and it wasn’t a surprise when the Spaniard was briefly linked to the Indian job.
In his first season, Goa scored a record 42 goals in the league phase, but conceded by the bucketful. They set that right last season with the signings of Mourtada Fall and Carlos Peña and they played a huge role in increasingly assured defensive displays. The Gaurs continued to pump in the goals and Ferran Corominas took the Golden Boot for the second season running.
The man who makes the team tick though is the Moroccan, Ahmed Jahouh, and he is possibly the most influential player in the league. Dictating proceedings from the middle of the park, no player made more tackles or passes than him last season. He also made the most forward passes by quite some distance and is a huge reason why Goa play at such a high tempo. Add Edu Bedia and Hugo Boumous to that mix and its a delicious cocktail of foreign talent in display at the Fatorda.
They have all decided to stay at the club and it is the first time that an ISL team has not brought new overseas talent in for the beginning of a season. Zaid Krouch leaves on a free transfer but all incoming players are Indian. Seiminlen Doungel is probably the only one of those who will push for a start at the beginning of the season and that is a testament to the quality of home-grown players in the squad. Brandon Fernandes, Mandar Rao Dessai, Jackichand Singh and Manvir Singh have all made Igor Štimac’s national squad in recent months. Given that the Croatian wants ball players in his squad, this isn’t a surprise.
Along with holders Bengaluru FC, Goa will start the season as favourites for the title. The Super Cup victory would only have reinforced the squad’s desire for the big one. They went desperately close last year and it needed Rahul Bheke’s extra-time heroics to snuff out their dreams, One senses that this could be the last season at the club for a few of the stalwarts and possibly the coach who is in the last year of his contract. A title win would be the perfect way to sign off on what has been an exhilarating ride.