Mumbai City FC’s (MCFC) six seasons in the Indian Super League (ISL) so far can be best described as hit-and-miss. However, following the City Football Group (CFG) takeover in November 2019, the arrival of FC Goa’s radical former coach Sergio Lobera and an irresistible squad overhaul, the Islanders have gone from surprise semifinalists to genuine title contenders. On paper at least.
Over the years, Nicholas Anelka, Freddie Ljungberg, Diego Forlan and Indian legend Sunil Chhetri are some of the star names to have donned the Mumbai City colours but have very little to show for in terms of on-pitch success.
One of the eight founding members of the ISL, MCFC have only qualified for the semi-finals on two occasions, in 2016 – when they kept a then-record nine clean sheets en route to their top of the table finish – and in 2018-19, finishing third.
However, they could not extend their form into the semis, bowing out to eventual champions ATK in 2016, 2-3 on aggregate, before being blown away by FC Goa 2-5 in 2019.
With the acquisition by CFG, an Abu Dhabi-based company that owns and operates a number of association football clubs – including Premier League side Manchester City – came a wave of changes as the club sought a reversal of fortunes and that elusive maiden ISL title.
One of the first steps in the CFG era was the appointment of former FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera, who controversially left the Gaurs with three games to go last season. Having managed FC Barcelona’s youth squad and Spanish second division side Las Palmas among others, the Spaniard led Goa to three consecutive top four finishes, the 2019 final and the Indian Super Cup title in 2019.
His brand of free-flowing attacking football, reflected in the fact that FC Goa have been the top-scoring side in each of his three seasons in charge, will come as breath of fresh air to a side used to a more defensive system under previous managers (MCFC have finished with the highest number of clean sheets on two occasions and have the cumulative highest total over the six seasons so far).
Mumbai City have also acquired the likes of French attacking midfielder Hugo Boumous, who scored 11 goals and laid on 10 assists for FC Goa over the 19-20 season and was adjudged player of the season.
He will be keen to link up with English striker Adam Le Fondre, a two-time Golden Boot runner-up with Australia’s A-League side Sydney FC. MCFC also poached Bartholomew Ogbeche from Kerala Blasters FC, who finished as the top goal scorer last season with 15 strikes in 16 games.
Another key arrival this season is Ahmed Jahouh, a former FC Goa defensive midfielder who finished last season with the highest number of tackles and touches, highlighting his ability to both dictate play in the middle of the park and break up attacks.
Continuing the FC Goa raid, Mumbai acquired defenders Mourtada Fall and Mandar Rao Dessai, solid additions at centre back and left back respectively.
MCFC have also signed highly promising players like 23-year-old attacking midfielder Cy Goddard from Serie A side Benevento, 18-year-old winger Vikram Pratap Singh from I-League’s Indian Arrows, 23-year-old winger Faruk Chaudhary from Jamshedpur FC and 20-year-old right back Mohamad Rakip from Kerala Blasters.
And with the key figures like goalkeeper and club captain Amrinder Singh and midfielders, Rowllin Borges and Raynier Fernandes, the Islanders have a formidable unit at their disposal.
Mumbai City will begin their campaign on November 21 against NorthEast United and expectations will be sky-high for Lobera to deliver in his maiden season in charge.
Mumbai City FC squad:
Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh (c), Nishit Shetty, Phurba Lachenpa, Vikram Singh
Defenders: Amey Ranawade, Valpuia, Mandar Rao Dessai, Mehtab Singh, Mohamad Rakip, Tondonba Singh, Sarthak Golui, Mourtada Fall
Midfielders: Ahmed Jahouh, Bidyananda Singh, Bipin Singh, Cy Goddard, Farukh Choudhary, Hernan Santana, Hugi Boumous, Asif Khan, Pranjal Bhumij, Raynier Fernandes, Rowllin Borges, Sourav Das, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy, Vikram Pratap Singh
Forwards: Bartholomew Ogbeche, Adam Le Frondre