The summer transfer window has closed. In the context of the Indian Super League (ISL) and its defending champions Chennaiyin FC, this means Stiven Mendoza will not be part of the third edition that begins one month from now. This bird has flown.
Flown to a better football destination, one where he is in manager Patrick Vieira’s scheme of things. On loan from Corinthians in Brazil, with whom he has a three-year deal, Mendoza, 24, is now part of New York City FC’s 18 in Major League Soccer (MLS). He has made 18 appearances, including seven starts, and scored three goals for the team in the Eastern Conference. In a squad that has Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Frank Lampard, Mendoza has had 797 minutes of football this season and started on the bench for 13 games.
With NYCFC preferring a 4-3-3 formation, Mendoza has been used as an attacker either on the left or on the right. Against Colorado Rapids, the Colombian, who was the highest scorer with 13 goals in 15 games of ISL 2, replaced Tony Taylor on the left in the 67th minute and got a goal in the 75th. NYCFC won 5-1.
On Monday, away to Orlando Pirates, Mendoza scored again. This time, he had started on the right with Villa and Thomas McNamara and stayed the full game. Mendoza’s goal came in the 55th minute between Kaka’s brace for the winners.
When NYCFC played LA Galaxy on August 21, Mendoza came on as a late substitute in the 1-0 win. As he was in the 3-3 draw against Columbus Crew on August 14 and when they met San Jose Earthquakes on August 6. That a player who has been used in the last six games of the MLS would not be available for the ISL seems a no-brainer and with NYCFC set to make the play-offs, Mendoza is likely to be in the USA till November. According to information with HT, NYCFC also have the first right to buy Mendoza.
Chennaiyin FC haven’t commented on missing Mendoza --- with Elano Blumer and Bruno Pelissari also not there it means attacking responsibilities will go to new players this term --- but seem to have made peace with it. Proof of that can be seen in the picture posted by co-owner Abhishek Bachchan with Mendoza and Lampard. Maybe they are even happy about it.
Picked for $35,000 (now Rs 23.4 lakh approximately) in 2014, Mendoza was an unknown entity who rose to prominence in the unlikeliest of football competitions, the ISL. His performance in ISL 1 fetched him a long-term deal with Corinthians and now this.
Mendoza has acknowledged Chennaiyin FC’s contribution to his rise. Speaking after winning the ISL and awards for the best player of the league and highest scorer in Goa last year, he had said: “No one knew me then (before the ISL). Here, I got the skills and motivation to get to a better team.” He also spoke of taking a lot of confidence from his performance in ISL 2 “where I am proud of what I achieved.”
About him, FC Goa coach Zico had this to say last year: “If he keeps the same performance in the big centres of football… If he shows the same football like in India in South America and Europe, he has a big chance of playing for Colombia.”
The Indian Premier League, a T20 competition on which the ISL is largely modelled, has revived and built the careers of many cricketers. Indian footballers continue to speak well of the ISL but Mendoza’s possibly the only young player from a developed football country to have benefited from this competition. The best advertisement for the ISL would be India improving as a football nation. The second-best would be a player owing his development to it.