ISL: Champions ATK spent their money well and reaped the rewards
ATK were well stacked for the season and were prepared for injuries and suspensions and that has bore fruits…
The Kolkata-based club was one of the highest spenders in the 2019-20 season in Indian football. The sixth edition of ISL had a salary cap of INR 16.5 Cr (which includes annual salary, bonuses, signing-on fee, etc.) and ATK have used their transfer budget extremely well.
There were several teams which struggled due to injuries throughout the season but ATK were well stacked. One of the first steps they took ahead of the start of the campaign was to assemble a strong first-team and ensure there was back-up. Antonio Habas had the likes of Balwant Singh, Jobby Justin and Anas Edathodika, who were all regular starters at their previous clubs, on the bench for the majority of the season. Even Edu Garcia, who managed to produce the goods in the final third for ATK as the season progressed, spent a few games in the initial as a super-sub.
When Carl McHugh was injured midway thorugh the season, ATK wasted no time in replacing him with Mandi Sosa. With John Johnson also not fully fit, they brought in Victor Mongil when the January transfer window opened. Thankfully, when Agus Garcia had to leave because of personal reasons, Johnson was fit and ready to step in as hios replacement while Mongil continued to be a good back-up option from the bench.
Indian international Anas Edathodika also picked up an injury midway through the campaign but the club ended the season with the second-best defensive record. There were injuries in the squad but ATK were well prepared for all scenarios, unlike the likes of Hyderabad FC, Odisha FC, NorthEast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC who all would argue that injuries derailed their seasons.
Over the years in ISL, we have seen clubs bring in marquee signings whose salary is not included in the salary cap. Often, these big-name signings have failed to make an impact (eg: Dimitar Berbatov in the 2017-18 season, Asamoah Gyan). It must be noted that Gyan started life in the ISL well before an injury ruled him out. However, by bringing David Williams and Roy Krishna from A-League to ISL, ATK have shown that it is not about spending a lot of money, it is about making smart moves in the market using the allocated budget.
It must also be remembered that ATK spent heavily in the last two seasons as well. However, they learnt from their mistakes. Especially in the previous seasons where injuries to prominent players like Kalu Uche and his replacement Emiliano Alfaro which rendered them toothless and ultimately cost them a play-off spot.
This time around, the club ensured money was spent well and spent in such a way that such contingencies were planned for.
What they have done with their transfer budget allows them to pick and choose their moves next season. ATK-Mohun Bagan will have a lot of decisions to make but this season’s expenditure has set them up very well for next campaign.