PANAJI: Indian Super League franchises have resisted the temptation of spending wildly on marquee players this season, despite the amount being excluded from the salary cap.
When the ISL was conceptualized in 2014, organizers had told participating franchises they may need approximately Rs 5 crore to sign a marquee player for four months. Arsenal legends Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg were contacted by the organizers themselves and then ‘allotted’ to franchises like FC Goa and Mumbai City FC who couldn’t sign marquee players on their own.
Last season, a salary cap of Rs 21 crore was understood to be the reason why franchises couldn’t sign big names, but this year, although franchises can spend as much as they wish on big names without worrying about the salary cap, they have shown restraint.
Information available with TOI shows Mumbai City FC spending big on their marquee player this season, while most others have reduced their budget, or, like NorthEast United FC, chosen a marquee player only to fulfil the requirement.
Diego Forlan’s four-month salary package of approximately Rs 6 crore makes him the best-paid player in the ISL.
The Golden Ball winner at FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa was chased by clubs for the past two seasons and Mumbai finally managed to get his prized signature after offering an attractive contract.
Forlan lived up to his billing in the ISL with five goals but couldn’t take his team to the final, picking up an unwanted red card in the first-leg semifinal against Atletico de Kolkata.
FC Goa chose to retain former Brazil captain Lucio as their marquee player for the second consecutive year, handing him a contract worth Rs 4.42 crore. Lucio, however, fell out of favour with coach Zico and started just three games, leaving FC Goa to wonder if it was worth digging deep into their pocket.
Atletico de Kolkata (Helder Postiga) and Delhi Dynamos (Florent Malouda) gave their marquee players significant hikes, while FC Pune City did well to convince former Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko to sign on the dotted line after losing Eidur Gudjohnsen to injury for Rs 2.80 crore.