The only one who hit his stride from kick-off was Indian Super League (ISL) auctioneer Charlie Ross. His buyers took a while to warm up. But by the time Rino Anto's future came to be decided, the pedals were moving at a furious pace.
From a base price of Rs 17.5 lakh, Anto went to champions Atletico de Kolkata for Rs 90 lakh after Mumbai City FC and FC Goa kept raising the stakes for the right-back who was at Mohun Bagan seven seasons ago and who said he is playing his best football after moving to Bengaluru FC. "Being chosen by the champions makes this special. And you get the maximum crowd in Kolkata," said Anto.
Hurt by Denzil Franco's injury last term, Atletico de Kolkata seemed determined to get the India defender, more so because Franco's still recovering. "We had to get one more player in that position. I am very happy with how the draft and the auction went. Now, it's time to start work," Atletico coach Antonio Lopez Habas told HT.
Anto's price was an exception on a day midfielders did the briskest business with 18, the largest, being picked from the auction and the draft. Thoi Singh, who sat stony-faced at dinner on Thursday as his agents wondered what his future held, had a base price of Rs 39 lakh but went for Rs 86 lakh. And before Sunil Chhetri, the most expensive player of the day with Mumbai City FC spending Rs 1.2 crore to get a frontline partner for Nicolas Anelka, it was a midfielder who broke the crore-barrier.
The faith six franchises showed on Eugeneson Lyngdoh meant they were willing to treat his early substitution against Guam in the World Cup qualifier as an aberration and concentrate on his Bengaluru FC form.
From a Rs 27.5 lakh base price, Lyngdoh went at Rs 1.05 crore for FC Pune City where co-owner Hrithik Roshan was the pedal pusher. FC Pune City, who went into the auction with the maximum purse of Rs 15.5 crore, also got Jackichand Singh whose face slowly broke into a smile as realisation of how much he was worth sank in.
Izumi Arata, who became the first naturalised Indian in the national team, went for Rs 28 lakh above his base price after some hectic bidding between Kolkata and Northeast United FC. And having missed out on three players from the Northeast, owner John Abraham seemed to have pulled out all stops to get Seityasen Singh. "He can play as wide left and wide right and we really wanted him. About the others, we could have been irrational and emotional but we asked ourselves 'do we really need them'," said Abraham.
From a cumulative price of Rs 3.84 crore, the auction raised Rs 7.22 crore. Draft picks included, a total of Rs 12.45 crore - more than the annual budget of some I-League teams - got spent in a day.But it was far from impulse buying. Being conservative about players with high base prices means clubs have a lot of money left for international buys. Kolkata skipped picking Mohun Bagan's in-form goalie Debjit Majumdar preferring to invest in two shot-stoppers and still save Rs 7 lakh. And Kerala Blasters retained all of their Rs 15.11 crore because assistant coach Trevor Morgan said he didn't want to "lighten" the squad with more India players.