Since the inception of the Indian Super League (ISL) several youngsters have made a name for themselves. Many of them have even gone to represent India as well. Sandesh Jhingan won the ISL Emerging Player of the Year award in 2014. Also, the defender has not looked back since then. The other prominent winners of the award have been Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sahal Abdul Samad, Sumit Rathi, and Lalengmawia Ralte who have been key players for their respective clubs.
With seven Indians to feature in the starting eleven from the upcoming season. Also, it is expected that more opportunities will be provided to the youngsters. And with matches coming in thick and fast at the business end of the season, there will be opportunities galore for players. Players like Vikram Pratap Singh, Rahim Ali, were in a rich vein of form with the India U-23 side and they will be eager to make a mark on the biggest stage in Indian domestic football as well.
Let us take a look at some of the best Under-23 players in the ISL.
Deepak Tangri (ATK Mohun Bagan)(ISL)
Very few know that Deepak Tangri is an academy product of Mohun Bagan. Also, he has honed his skills under Jo Paul Ancheri at Mohun Bagan’s SAIL Academy in Durgapur. He further blossomed at Indian Arrows and in the summer of 2021, he joined Bagan from Chennaiyin FC.
Tangri is a versatile player who can play as a defensive midfielder and as well as a center-back. He shone in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers for India at the heart of the defense and will look to establish himself as one of the starters in a start-studded ATK Mohun Bagan squad.
Suresh Singh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC)(ISL)
The Manipuri defensive midfielder is currently one of the top talents in Indian football. He is an undisputed starter in Bengaluru FC, features regularly for the Indian national team, and is the skipper of the India U-23 side. Also, he is a bundle of energy in midfield as he covers almost every blade of grass on the pitch. He breaks down attacks and is even a good runner with the ball. The 21-year-old is known for his tackling as well.
Rahim Ali (Chennaiyin FC)(ISL)
Rahim Ali is going into this edition of ISL in the best shape possible. He has tasted success in the last couple of months under Igor Stimac with the national team and now will look to replicate that form at the domestic level. In the friendlies against Nepal, he was a livewire in attack and was equally impressive in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers.
In the previous season, he played over 1000-minutes for Chennaiyin but could score only twice. This time he will be eager to convert more chances by being more clinical in front of goal.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam (East Bengal)
A couple of years back Amarjit Singh was regarded amongst the best young midfielders in the country. He made his national team debut in the King’s Cup in Thailand in 2019. In fact, he was the first player to be born after 2000 to make a debut for India. However, injuries plagued his progress. In East Bengal’s Manuel Diaz, he has found a manager who can help him get back on track.
The former Real Madrid Castilla manager has molded the careers of several stars like Lucas Vasquez, Mariano Diaz, Diego Llorente in their youth and Amarjit will certainly look to learn a few more tricks of the trade from the experienced Spaniard. He is known for his energetic performances wherein he harries the opposition midfielders to win the ball.
Dheeraj Singh (FC Goa)
The young goalkeeper was arguably the best player for India in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers. In each of the three matches, he made numerous outstanding saves to spare India the blushes. He was in equally good form during the group stages of the AFC Champions League for the Gaurs and his heroics helped
Juan Ferrando gets a few draws against technically better sides from West Asia. He is brilliant in one-on-one situations, is a good shot-stopper, and has excellent reflexes which make him one of the best in the business. If he works a bit on the art of collecting crosses, he has the potential to be a worthy successor to Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.