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When asked if he had any marquee player in his sights for the upcoming season, Miguel Angel Portugal, the new coach of Indian Super League side Delhi Dynamos, pointed to his right and said, “Money.” Sitting there were the franchise’s director Rohan Sharma and his father and owner/CEO of GMS group that holds majority ownership of the team, Dr. Anil Sharma. It all depends on how much they are ready to shell out, was what he tried to say in the limited English he spoke during his unveiling as the new coach of the side.
Florent Malouda was the marquee player for the Dynamos last season. He was also that rare breed of star names to have played in the ISL that had a tangible effect on the field apart from being the off-field attraction. This season, the 2016 semi-finalists have decided to not retain any of their players, something that has caught quite a few by surprise. Players like Milan Singh, Anas Edathodika, Kean Lewis were only few of the many Indian players that made an impact last season but the Dynamos have not made any efforts to retain them for the new season.
“It’s like a new project. we have not excluded anyone out of the team. We have a draft list with us. And we will make a decision later,” said Portugal when asked about the decision to not retain even key players. “We’ll see how that goes,” franchise CEO Ashish Shah joked in a conversation at the end of the unveiling. “There are various permutations and combinations being considered. Getting an experienced goalkeeper is also very key. There are various factors,” he said.
The Dynamos hierarchy also communicated during the event that they are looking to expand their grassroots level program. The fact that the popularity of the game in Delhi remains lower than most other major cities in India means that the Delhi Dynamos have had some of the poorest stadium attendances over the last few seasons. They have also lagged behind some of their fellow ISL franchises in terms of putting together a youth system or a women’s squad. Ashish Shah said that the franchise is now hence looking at a “bottom to top” approach and thus try and increase the Dynamos’ presence at the grassroots level.
Who is the new Delhi Dynamos coach?
Miguel Angel Portugal had a short stay at Real Madrid during his playing career. He is also said to have come close to landing the manager’s job at the Santiago Bernabeu after the sacking of Bernd Schuster in 2008 but then club president Ramon Calderon preferred Juande Ramos over him. It is as the coach of Spanish side Racing Santander that Portugal made a name. In his first season with the club, Portugal led them to a 10th place finish in the 2006/07 La Liga season. This season also saw Santander record a 2-1 win at home over eventual league champions Real Madrid. Portugal then returned to Santander in 2009 and stayed on for two years before he was sacked in 2011 by the new owner of the club who was, incidentally, a Gulf based Indian businessman named Ahsan Ali Syed. He has also won the Bolivian league title with Club Bolivar in 2013. Portugal has also spent time as coach of Real Madrid’s B and C teams.