The 2021-22 Indian Super League season was arguably the best ever, with Hyderabad FC winning the tournament, while Jamshedpur FC finished as league winners. With the season coming to a close, here is ESPN's Team of the Season. The season was such, one could easily produce a squad of 25 that deserve to be in this team. So be forewarned that some of your favorite players might not have made the cut. We've also stuck to ISL's four-foreigner rule to make this a functionally coherent team. The 4-2-3-1 formation seems most suited to the players we have picked, albeit with a few tweaks involved.
Goalkeeper: Laxmikant Kattimani (Hyderabad FC)
Kattimani's title-deciding superhuman performance in the penalty shootout of the ISL final was reason enough to pick him. But even if he hadn't, he might still have made the cut. He made the most saves in the entire season (61) and being the goalkeeper for a team that likes to play on the front foot, thus requiring him to be ever so brave, is no mean task. Given his past, Kattimani's redemption arc has arguably been the best narrative of the season. Long may it continue.
ɴᴇʀᴠᴇꜱ ᴏꜰ ꜱᴛᴇᴇʟ ��
- Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 20, 2022
Right back: Harmanjot Khabra (Kerala Blasters FC)
Pritam Kotal and Asish Rai came close, but ultimately we've gone with Harmanjot Khabra for his consistent presence in a backline that kept the most clean sheets all season. His leadership and energetic pressing have been vital to Ivan Vukomanovic's renewal of the Blasters this season, while continuing his penchant of sending in delicious crosses from the right flank.
Centre back: Peter Hartley (Jamshedpur FC)
Peter Hartley lifted Jamshedpur FC's league shield and there was no one more deserving of the honour. The 33-year-old Englishman has been the rock upon which Owen Coyle built his foundation, as Hartley formed stellar partnerships at the back with both Eli Sabia and Narender Gahlot. Leading the charts in defensive stats for Jamshedpur, it's no surprise to see him in the team of the season. His proclivity for scoring from corners is an added bonus.
Centre back: Chinglensana Singh (Hyderabad FC)
Ball-playing centre-backs are a requirement of modern football, but Sana Singh marries that to a defensive nous that has seen him become arguably India's best centre-back (Yes, even over Sandesh Jhingan). Hormipam Ruivah, also deserves a mention for a stellar season, but Chinglensana's ability with the ball makes him the obvious choice.
Left back: Akash Mishra (Hyderabad)
Akash Mishra is the only player to retain his spot from last year's Team of the Season. Described as 'one for the future' then, Mishra is firmly one for the present now. Naorem Roshan Singh was an option for this spot, but Mishra produced a solid 8/10 (or more) every game, all season. His dynamism meant he topped Hyderabad's assist charts while also being one of their best tacklers. In Akash Mishra, one has the perfect, modern fullback.
Central midfielder: Lalthathanga 'Puitea' Khawlhring (Kerala Blasters FC)
Puitea's astronomical rise at the heart of the Kerala Blasters midfield ought to have resulted in a national call up, but thankfully the 23-year-old has time on his side. Alongside Jeakson Singh, he formed a formidable partnership in the middle of the park as Vukomanovic demanded a high press that required positional awareness and a stellar engine, both of which Puitea has in spades.
Central midfielder: Jitendra Singh (Jamshedpur FC)
Ahmed Jahouh is normally a shoe-in for this role, but his injury-hit end to the season, coupled with Mumbai's inconsistency have seen us opt for Jitendra Singh. Pronay Halder's destructive tendencies might not be necessary with Puitea around, so we've opted for his Jamshedpur midfield partner. Jitendra's clean tackling and skill with interceptions have been crucial for his team, while also being clever in possession. The 20-year-old has a maturity way beyond his years and ought to be making the national side soon enough.
Right winger: Greg Stewart (Jamshedpur FC)
We simply had to pick Greg Stewart, but given the makeup of the others in this side, he will play in a right-wing role. It doesn't matter though, wherever you stick Stewart on the pitch, he's usually devastating. Not since Boumous has the league witnessed a player reach double figures for both goals and assists. Stewart's penchant for an unstoppable dribble, a long-range screamer, or even a delicate assist make him an unpredictable weapon that simply cannot be stopped.
HERO OF THE LEAGUE ����
Let's relive and relish all the jaw dropping moments that Greg Stewart produced on the pitch which led Jamshedpur win the historic League Winners Shield & become Champions of India ����⚽
- Jamshedpur FC (@JamshedpurFC) March 20, 2022
Central attacking midfielder: Adrian Luna (Kerala Blasters)
Adrian Luna drifts from the left into central areas for Kerala Blasters anyway, so why not use him there right from the off. That the entire state of Kerala was on tenterhooks regarding his fitness ahead of the ISL final ought to tell you all about his importance. In addition to scoring goals from another planet (must. not. make. lunar. pun), Luna has created the most big chances (10) this season, all while bringing Uruguayan 'garra charrua' to Vukomanovic's side.
Left winger: Liston Colaco (ATK Mohun Bagan)
The highest scoring Indian of ISL 2021-22. ATK Mohun Bagan's top-scorer, in a side with Roy Krishna, David Williams, Manvir Singh and Hugo Boumous. Just 1 behind ATKMB's assist leader Joni Kauko. Liston Colaco is an easy, easy choice and there's very little to debate.
Centre forward: Bart Ogbeche (Hyderabad FC)
Who else? 17 goals from 17 league games and 1 goal in the playoffs, while playing the latter part of the season as a #10, all while having an xG of 8.6. There's no one more worthy to hold the title of the all-time top-scorer in the Indian Super League (while also topping the all-time scoring charts for three different clubs). Bart Ogbeche, certified legend.
... and he's 37 years old.
(One goalkeeper, one centre back, one full-back, one central midfielder, and three attacking options) - Prabhsukhan Gill (Kerala Blasters FC), Juanan (Hyderabad FC), Naorem Roshan Singh (Bengaluru FC), Joao Victor (Hyderabad FC), Suhair VP (NorthEast United FC), Alvaro Vazquez (Kerala Blasters FC), Manvir Singh (ATK Mohun Bagan)
Indian Player of the Season: Liston Colaco
In perhaps the best season for showcasing Indian talent, Liston Colaco comes out on top simply because he's a difference-maker. Chinglensana Singh and Akash Mishra were also in the running, with the pair sharing incredibly consistent seasons. Yet, Liston takes the prize because on top of adding consistency to his game, he's kept his penchant for scoring absolute worldies that often are the difference between a win and a draw. It's rare for Indian players to be that deciding factor (barring Sunil Chhetri in seasons past), and for that, Mr. Colaco-Golazo is our Indian Player of the Season.
Player of the Season: Greg Stewart
A close run award this, with Adrian Luna and Bart Ogbeche also making very strong cases to win the crown. Yet, Greg Stewart provided us with arguably the goal of the season, countless moments where his dribbling left you breathless (and defenders on their backsides) - game after game after game. The league's most consistent performer, he lead Jamshedpur to the league shield and is deservedly, our Player of the Season.
Manager of the Season: Manolo Marquez (Hyderabad FC)
Yet another close battle, with league shield winner Owen Coyle and Kerala Blasters' inspirational boss Ivan Vukomanovic also in the running. Manolo Marquez gets the final nod, mostly because of where he's taken an unfancied Hyderabad FC team. Compared to Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters, Hyderabad arguably had a weaker squad on paper, but the sum of their parts has been a joy to watch all season. One could even make the argument that had Covid-19 not forced them to play a weakened side against Jamshedpur in a league-deciding clash, they might have won the league shield and cup double.
From nurturing young domestic talents to reinvigorating old, seemingly washed-up foreigners, all while playing an expansive, entertaining style of football, Manolo Marquez has been a gift to Indian football.