City Football Group (CFG) have agreed terms with former FC Goa manager Sergio Lobera who is now expected to take charge of Mumbai City FC. The Spaniard led the Gaurs to the play-offs in all the three seasons during his time at the club, but could not lay his hands on the trophy on any occasion.
However, he won the AIFF Super Cup in 2019 and played a huge role in guiding his side to the top of the Indian Super League (ISL) table in the following season to win the maiden ISL League Winners Shield. Lobera is known for incorporating an attractive brand of football while getting the results.
We take a look at what Mumbai fans can expect from the Spaniard.
Goa was in shambles when Lobera took over. They had finished last in the 2016 edition, winning just 14 points in as many games. But Lobera led them to a third-place finish in the league and showcased a style of play that focused on maintaining possession and is attractive to the eye.
However, just juxtaposing the points table of the two seasons does not tell the whole story. Goa were active in the transfer window that season and overtook a major overhaul in the squad. The Brazilian core was removed and a Spanish one was instilled, to match the new manager’s preferred style of play.
Ferran Corominas, Edu Bedia, Manuel Lanzarote and Hugo Boumous (in the winter trasnfer window) were all signed under Lobera. While the Spaniard inherited a sub-par squad, it’s also worth mentioning that he had a free hand in the market and that played a huge role in their success over the years.
Currently, Mumbai have no Spaniards in their squad. Their counter-attacking style of play, although very effective, under Jorge Costa is the opposite to what Lobera brings to the table.
It could be argued that Lobera will not find it easy to impose his philosophy. However, if the Spaniard is able to find the kind of players he needs while adhering to the budget restrictions, it will make the job easier.
Mumbai fans hence need to be very patient with this high-profile signing. Mumbai could take a season or so to transition into what Goa eventually became under him.
Interestingly, Lobera has also played a crucial role in the development of some Indian players, who are continuing to show great promise. Mandar Rao Dessai, Brandon Fernandes, Seriton Fernandes, and Jackichand Singh flourished under him.
This testifies Lobera’s eye for local talent, the ability to nurture them and instil his style of play. It’s always easy to model the youngsters and the likes of Mohammad Nawaz, Brandon, Jackichand and Saviour Gama will tell you about the impact the Spanish manager has had on them during their development years.
Sourav Das, Sarthak Golui, Bidyananda Singh and Valpuia are some prospects who could benefit from this at Mumbai. Some of these players showed great promise in the 2019-20 season and having a coach such as Lobera model their formative years in the sport will not only boost their careers but also help the team transition smoothly.
Lobera is one of the best coaches to have managed in the ISL. His aesthetic, attacking brand of football has troubled other clubs in the league for three years now.
Mumbai fans must be patient with him for at least one season. Beautiful football will arrive at the Mumbai Football Arena and Lobera is the harbinger.