Having last all of 74 minutes as marquee for Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) last term because of a hamstring injury, Helder Postiga could be retained by the franchise fast running out of options because the deal with Diego Forlan fell through at the last minute.
There was no official communication from ATK but they have time till the third week of August. A spokesperson for the team though said talks with Postiga are at an advanced stage. The website transfermark.com says Postiga is currently ‘unattached.’
Postiga, who will turn 34 next week, played for Rio Ave in the second half of the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the country’s top division. In 10 games, he scored five goals including the winner on final match day that helped them make the Europa League qualifiers where they are now in the third round. Rio Ave finished sixth in the league. He has 27 goals in 72 games for Portugal.
In his only match for ATK, Postiga scored a brace in a 3-2 win away to eventual champions Chennaiyin FC. His career though has been hit by hamstring injuries. Postiga was ruled out of the 2012 European championships after the 1-0 win against the Czech Republic and played 16 minutes in the 2014 World Cup. After being treated for over a month, Postiga rejoined ATK last November but didn’t play.
Negotiations with Forlan were being done mainly by Atletico Madrid, co-owners of the Kolkata franchise since it started in 2014, according to a source in the team. But with the deal falling through and rumours of Forlan looking for a club in South America and being offered more by another ISL franchise not going away, Atletico de Kolkata reached out to Postiga, the source said.
Because by then, former Bayern Munich star Roque Santa Cruz had signed elsewhere. A third option, Michael Ballack, retired in 2012, is 39 and may not have fulfilled eligibility criteria. Also, Postiga is likely to cost ATK a lot less than Forlan for whom they were reportedly willing to pay R 5.5 crore, nearly R 1 crore more than Elano Blumer, the Chennaiyin FC marquee and the most expensive player in ISL2. Following the fracas after the ISL2 final, Blumer is unlikely to return to India.
Postiga may not be the only marquee retained. A franchise from western India may keep their defender marquee. Another is said to be keen on a player who was a defender for another franchise. “The idea of investing in a defensive player is often cost driven. He will be cheaper than a marquee who is an attacker,” said a franchisee official who did not want to be named because he isn’t authorised to speak to the media on this.
Each team sends a list of names for approval to an official with IMG football before beginning the search for a marquee, said a spokesperson for the Indian Super League (ISL).
Only Kerala Blasters have announced their marquee signing for ISL3. On Thursday, Northern Ireland centre-back Aaron Hughes, 36, was unveiled as their top player. Hughes was part of Euro 2016, getting his 100th cap in the competition and has played for Newcastle and Fulham. Blasters tried signing utility defensive player and Newcastle hero Jonas Gutierrez as marquee, a team official said, but were denied permission.