Sergio Lobera has managed to the players he wanted at Mumbai City…
When the news of City Football Group’s takeover of Indian Super League (ISL) club Mumbai City FC broke last season, somehow most football aficianados in the country knew that they might appoint a high-profile head coach to take up the project.
It is not that Jorge Costa’s stint was a disaster – there were positives to take away – but things didn’t really click for the Portuguese who had previously played under Jose Mourinho at Porto. The last time that the Islanders saw the ISL playoffs was in 2018-19 season but a defeat to FC Goa in the semis halted their progress. CFG are in it for the long term and they needed someone to revamp the whole squad and play a more attacking brand of football.
Enter former Las Palmas manager Sergio Lobera who spent three seasons with the Gaurs and created an identity of his own in Indian football. Lobera’s team was hell-bent on outscoring their opponents instead of being conservative regardless of in-game scenarios. Possession-based football was quickly the name of the game and Lobera led the revolution from the dugout.
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What helped Lobera at Goa was the fact that he managed to get exactly the players he needed for his system to work. FC Goa were a more complete team by his second year in charge of the team. And he had brought in more than one former player.
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The man who introduced Ferran Corominas to India (who has left ISL as the league’s all-time topscorer) has now two lethal finishers in his squad.
Bartholomew Ogbeche has been in the race for the Golden Boot for two seasons in a row and had become Kerala Blasters’ all-time topscorer despite having spent only one season with the yellows in Kochi. Partnering him upfront will be Adam Le Fondre who has been on fire in front of goal recently in A-League and is arguably the most exciting foreign signing of the season.
To assist these strikers and create goals on his own, Lobera will make use of the services of the best player in the league last season – Hugo Boumous. The French midfielder has 16 goals and 17 assists in 42 appearances – an incredible return in Indian football.
Further behind in midfield, Lobera has Ahmed Jahouh who will be vital to dominating opponents in midfield and retaining possession for long periods of the game. He will have help from India international Rowllin Borges and the talented Raynier Fernandes.
In defence, there is the tall figure of Mourtada Fall who was vital in stemming the concesion of goals with the Gaurs. It will be interesting to see how the defence lines up because this Mumbai City team is top-heavy.
The trusted gloves of Amrinder Singh in between the stick completes what looks like a squad that is one of the favourites to win the title this year. It certainly won’t be one-way traffic, as other teams have also strengthened their squads. But Lobera has all the ingredients to make it work in Mumbai (in Goa). And when Sergio Lobera gets all his ingredients, he knows the recipe to delectable football.