Having failed with Italian and English coaches, respectively, in the first two editions of the Indian Super League, FC Pune City have now turned to a Spaniard, by handing over the reigns to former Atletico de Kolkata manager Antonio Lopez Habas for the third season of the tournament.
A title winner with the Kolkata side in the first edition, Habas brings in the experience of a ‘peculiar brand of football’ that is the ISL, insisted Pune CEO Gaurav Modwel, while unveiling the coach. “What we learned from last year was that someone who has the experience in ISL will be best suited to build a winning team, and there is no one better than Habas,” Modwel said.
Habas, who has vast experience working in Spain and South Africa, said his first task will be to instill a winning mentality among his wards. “In my entire coaching career, the idea is to create a cohesive group first. The philosophy is simple — to win matches with tactical discipline and as a consolidated group. That is very important for us,” the 58-year-old said.
The Spaniard will have at his disposal three former wards in Arata Izumi, Augustin Fernandes and Sanju Pradhan, who are among the nine Indians who the Deccan-based team have roped in for the new season.
Apart from the trio, Pune have retained Arindam Bhattacharya, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Gouramangi Singh and Lenny Rodrigues, as well as signing (on loan) NorthEast United left-back Yumnam Raju. Meanwhile, contract talks with Eugeneson Lyngdoh will be finalised after I-League comes to a close, the club said. The team are also on the lookout for a marquee player. “I’m not in for hiring a marquee player who is bigger than the team. He can be a superstar, but he must have the same behaviour as any other player in the squad,” said Habas, who has coached the likes of Chelsea forward Diego Costa.
“I’ve been coordinating with the team management regarding the squad for the new season, and I’m happy with the group we have. There are young players, who are disciplined and useful, and we can get them to play at a fantastic level next season,” he noted.
Having lifted the maiden ISL trophy, and then reaching the playoffs in the second season with ATK, Habas warned the Punekars that he will not set any target for his first season. “We will go day by day. The important thing is to work hard and have the mentality to win day after day,” he said, adding the training pitch that the club owned was one of the reasons why he picked Pune as his new destination.