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Atletico Madrid may make Indian Super League return with Jamshedpur FC

Spain’s third most successful club after Real Madrid and Barcelona had then become part owners of the Kolkata Indian Super League (ISL) franchise which was named Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) but the partnership ended last year.

football Updated: Jul 21, 2018 10:14 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Atletico Madrid,Indian Super League,Jamshedpur FC
Jamshedpur FC had made their Indian Super League (ISL) debut in the 2017/18 edition of the tournament. (ISL / SPORTZPICS)

Cesar Ferrando’s appointment as coach of Jamshedpur FC (JFC) this term could mean the return of European and Spanish giants Atletico Madrid to the Indian Super League (ISL).

Ferrando, 58, is a former Atletico Madrid coach, having managed them in 2004-05. He is due to be presented in Jamshedpur on Saturday. The fifth season of the ISL is likely to begin in the last week of September.

Spanish champions 10 times, three Europa League titles and twice runners-up in the Champions League between 2014 and 2016, Atletico Madrid had joined the ISL when the city-based franchises’ competition started in 2014.

Spain’s third most successful club after Real Madrid and Barcelona had then become part owners of the Kolkata franchise which was named Atletico de Kolkata (ATK).

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With Atletico Madrid helping ATK choose foreign players and the coaching staff ---- one of them, Jose Molina, who was in charge in 2016, has been appointed the Spanish federation’s sporting director after Fernando Hierro quit ---- the team won the ISL twice in the first three years.

But around this time last year, ATK’s principal owner Sanjiv Goenka announced that the partnership wouldn’t continue into ISL4. In ISL4, the Kolkata team finished ninth among 10 teams.

Last year was also when JFC was launched and Sunil Bhaskaran, vice-president corporate services, had told this newspaper that they were looking to tie-up with a European major. Before ISL4, Bhaskaran said he had done a recce of several European clubs but not Atletico Madrid.

A visit to Jamshedpur last January by Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City, to watch an ISL game was interpreted as JFC being keen to walk Bhaskaran’s talk.

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This newspaper has learnt from at least two different sources that meetings between representatives of Atletico Madrid and JFC have been taking place for weeks, in India and in Madrid.

That Atletico Madrid were serious about India could be gauged by them flying Spain midfielder Koke as a guest for the 2014 ISL final and getting ATK to present the ISL trophy at Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium, their home till the end of the 2016-17 season.

From 2017-18, Atletico Madrid also own 50% of a club in the Mexican top tier showing that they are keen to take the brand beyond Europe, somewhat like Manchester City.

According to one of the mediators in the deal, a decision could be taken in the last week of August. A club official, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, however said on Friday that there is a very high chance of the pre-season training happening in Madrid this year. It used to be the same with ATK.

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Of the three foreigners retained by the club for ISL5, Tiri played two seasons for ATK before moving in 2017-18. If the deal goes through, the four remaining could be signed based on Atletico Madrid’s inputs.

Should the deal happen, it is also possible an academy run by Atletico Madrid would come up in India.

JFC refused to comment when this newspaper reached out to their representatives over the phone for a reaction on Friday.

First Published: Jul 21, 2018 09:12 IST