Former Germany, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund defender Manuel Friedrich became the latest star to join the Indian Super League (ISL) bandwagon, after he was announced as the marquee player of Mumbai City on Friday.
At 34, he is the youngest marquee player to have signed for an ISL club and also the only player in the tournament who has played in the 2014 UEFA Champions League. Friedrich joins two 36-year-olds Joan Capdevila, who joined North East United from Espanyol, and David Trezeguet (River Plate to Pune City) as marquee players in the inaugural season of the tournament.
This will be Friedrich’s maiden stint outside of his country, making the defender the first German to be a part of the ISL. Although Mumbai did not disclose his signing fee, the man who spent the last 15 seasons in the Bundesliga is set to be worth Rs 4 crore approx. His contract with Dortmund ended at the end of last season and he became a free agent.
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In a statement released by Mumbai City, Friedrich is quoted as saying that he had long hoped to end his career in Asia. He refused a contract extension offered by Leverkusen and decided to try his luck in Thailand last year for Bangkok Glass. The move, however, did not materialise. And while he was still searching for a club in Asia, an unexpected turn of events led him back to Germany.
When Friedrich was backpacking across Asia, then German champions Borussia Dortmund were facing a defensive headache. Their two first-choice centre-backs, Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic, suffered injuries that had forced them out of action for a long duration. So, an SOS was sent out to Friedrich.
The 6’ 3’’ defender received a call from Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp and Friedrich was more than happy to end his holiday. The duo knew each other since 2005, when they were teammates at Mainz 05 and Klopp later went on to become Friedrich’s manager at the club.
In the absence of Hummels and Subotic, Friedrich became Dortmund’s first-choice defender and after making his Dortmund debut in the 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich, he went on to play 14 more matches for them, scoring one goal. He also featured in Dortmund’s Champions League campaign, including the second leg game at home against Real Madrid, which they lost 2-0.
His addition further strengthens Mumbai City, who have picked some of the best domestic players including Subrata Pal and Syed Rahim Nabi, and also snapped up a few decent foreign players on Thursday.