Diego Forlan, Mumbai City FC forward Arguably the biggest draw among the foreign players in ISL 3 is 2010 FIFA Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan, whose five goals in South Africa helped two-time World Cup champions Uruguay to a fourth-place finish. Forlan will bring with himself the experience of having played in seven countries across three continents -- most prominently at Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Villarreal -- and he has invariably lifted the performance of all the clubs he has played for.
Forlan, whose father Pablo represented Uruguay as a right-back in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, will look to erase the memories of Mumbai City FC's previous marquee Nicolas Anelka -- who thrilled Indian crowds with his sporadic appearances on the pitch but had a testy relationship with his team, especially in the second season where he doubled up as manager. Forlan comes into this ISL campaign after guiding his boyhood club Penarol to victory in the Uruguayan Primera Division and scoring eight goals in 31 appearances. He will hope to be not just a star performer for one of the best teams on paper, but also bring the squad together with his leadership off the pitch.
Apoula Edel Bete, FC Pune City goalkeeper The Cameroon-born goalkeeper has the unique record of having started in two winning finals of the ISL, winning the first in 2014 with Atletico de Kolkata without conceding a single goal in 300 minutes of the playoffs. His 2015 campaign with Chennaiyin FC began on a sloppy note, as he was to blame for two of the three goals conceded against his former team on the opening night, and he found himself relegated to the bench in favour of Karanjit Singh for a while. But Edel made the Chennaiyin goal his own once he was reinstated, to help Chennaiyin win six of their last seven matches, including a record five on the bounce. At the end of the season he had six clean sheets to his name which won him the golden glove award.
He is known to be steady rather than the spectacular, an attribute Pune City have sorely missed in previous seasons. If he can bring the same ability to raise his game as the league progresses, a hat-trick of titles may not be impossible for the man with six international caps for Armenia.
Lucio, FC Goa defender An integral part of the Brazilian team that won the last of its five FIFA World Cup titles in 2002, Lucio was a pillar of strength in his debut season for runners-up for FC Goa in 2015. Injuries limited his continued presence in defence for his coach and compatriot Zico, but Lucio ended up with most number of interceptions last season. Zico often employed his favoured 3-5-2 formation, which left Lucio as the last man in defence -- sweeping alongside his centre-backs -- and his commitment to the cause and on-field leadership were vital ingredients in helping Goa prosper.
Lucio returns to the land that has a natural affinity for Brazil owing to their common historical link with the Portuguese, and the only question would be whether he can replicate the performance of 2015. That, and his ability to steer clear of niggles and injuries -- or at least play through them -- might be pivotal for a team that will depend on his experience.
Florent Malouda, Delhi Dynamos midfielder Another returning player from ISL's second season, Florent Malouda was critical as Delhi Dynamos reached the semi-finals, with the Frenchman chalking up eight assists along the way. Malouda combined beautifully in the heart of midfield for a team that was low on big names around the pitch, but played with exceptional confidence, especially at home.
Malouda failed to score a goal, though he was usually entrusted with set-pieces and even hit the woodwork on a few occasions, and this year he returns as a marquee in the team to be managed by Gianluca Zambrotta. The two, who faced off in an unforgettable FIFA World Cup final a decade ago in Berlin, will hope to use their experienced to help a young Delhi squad do even better this season.
Helder Postiga, Atletico de Kolkata forward There was genuine anticipation in the air when Helder Postiga signed for champions Atletico de Kolkata last season. His start, for the most part, was the perfect one. In the season opener against Chennaiyin FC, Postiga showed perfect goalpoacher's instincts to take advantage of a scuffed collection by keeper Edel to put his team in front, and then scored his second when he pounced on a poor clearance by Bernard Mendy.
Postiga, who at 33 was one of the younger marquee players, injured himself in the course of scoring the second goal and took no further part in the tournament. Though Atletico de Kolkata were able to find a suitable replacement up front in Iain Hume, who adapted admirably from his usual withdrawn forward role, Postiga will return to lead the attack this year and his partnership with Hume on paper promises a lot of goals.