Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory has moved swiftly to signal his intent to battle hard for the Indian Super League (ISL) by securing the services of Brazilian defender Eli Sabia — and also bringing in a new face to the club.
As well as confirming a contract extension for Eli Sabia, Gregory has snapped up ex-Afghanistan international Masih Saighani on a free transfer.
And the manager says he is delighted to have been able to negotiate with influential stopper Sabia, who is aged 30, to extend his contract at the club. The news comes as officials moved to announce the start date of what will be the sixth ISL campaign. games set to begin on October 20.
Gregory, former manager at Premier League outfit Aston Villa, said the fact that the player performed with consistency in a season not without issues proved that he was worth tying down to a longer deal. He said:
“Put simply Eli was a standout player for us in what was an otherwise difficult season. His commitment and prowess in defence has been exemplary, and he has always been a thorough professional.”
Samba stalwart Sabia, who has made 40 appearance for Chennaiyin during two stints with the Chennai-based outfit, has spoken of his happiness at penning the new deal and pledged to fight tooth and nail get his side back to the upper echelons of the league table with a view to fight for the title.
“I am very happy to continue with the club I love so much. In this new season, along with my teammates, we will work hard to achieve what our fans deserve. We are a club that should be fighting for the championship and I would very much like to think that we will be back at the top. I would like to thank Chennaiyin for giving me this opportunity to do my best again.”
Versatile Saighan, who is aged 32, is teaming up with Chennaiyin from Bangladeshi outfit Abahani Dhaka. Gregory is said to admire the different roles the player can fulfil with particular need for his ability in a central defensive midfielder role or in central defence.
Saighan says that he is looking forward to the new experience. He said:
“It will be an absolute honour to play for Chennaiyin and head coach Gregory and the club’s fantastic fans. I am so very thankful for this opportunity. The club and the Indian Super League have always impressed me, and I am excited to participate and I can’t wait to start playing.”
Gregory said he was looking forward to working with Saighani and cites his experience as being invaluable with a long, hard season ahead. He added:
“Saighani is an experienced player who ticks all the boxes for us. He has an imposing physical presence, is lethal in the air and is extremely comfortable on the ball.”