Habas happy that ATK will be battle-ready when it comes to chase for ISL title

Atletico De Kolkata

ATK head coach Antonio Lopez Habas is going to leave no stone unturned as he prepares his squad ahead of the sixth campaign of the Indian Super League (ISL).

Spaniard Habas, who is of course the former coach of FC Pune City, has assembled his squad and is putting his players through their paces as ATK get set to head to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi to face Kerala Blasters on 20 October.

That is when the big kick-off, so eagerly anticipated throughout the land by fans who follow the fortunes of the clubs fighting for the ISL crown, takes place. And, as mentioned, for many it can’t come too soon.

For ATK it is another chance to try to add to the two titles that they have already managed to snare. And to boost their ranks and, by definition, their chances of doing that, coach Habas has recruited two new domestic aces in the shape of keeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem and hard-working central midfielder Sehnaj Singh. The former, a special talent and one who attracted lots of attention in the close season, has been tied down to a five-year deal. The latter has been offered, and accepted, a one-year contract.

ATK swooped for Dheeraj Singh, who is still aged only 19, after being alerted to his considerable talent when he was able to deliver a string of impressive displays at the FIFA under-17 World Cup which was staged in India two years ago. They missed out first time of asking with the custodian joining Kerala Blasters initially but they have eventually got their man.

Sehnaj Singh, meanwhile, is highly regarded as a prospect with a bright future in the game, potentially, and it is felt that if he is able to gain valuable game time in the upcoming season he could well prove to be a valuable acquisition and could well see his shorter deal extended.

The players mentioned are, of course, relatively inexperienced but they will be mixing it with one new recruit who has bundles of knowhow when it comes to having been round the block in the professional ranks.

That’s because before announcing the latest arrivals, ATK pounced for the services of Spanish attacking midfielder Javier Hernandez Gonzalez — and this followed the slightly surprising news that midfielder Manuel Lanzarote had departed.

Hernandez, who is aged 30, started his career as a Real Madrid starlet and his ability proved worthy of a call-up for Spain under-19 national team. But he couldn’t quite break into the Madrid first team squad and his pinnacle in the Spanish capital was a stint in the Galacticos’ reserve team.

And ATK chief Habas is delighted with the capture. He said:

“Hernández adds balance and versatility to the team. He is experienced and has played in different conditions, which will be a big advantage for ATK.”