IN ONE OF THE biggest transfer moves of the window, Sandesh Jhingan has signed for ATK Mohun Bagan on a massive 5 year deal.
In a prolonged battle that saw the former Kerala Blasters star defender being fought over by East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, FC Goa and Bengaluru FC (in the early days), Jhingan held out waiting to see if suitable opportunities for him arised aborad. In the end, he decided to join the Green and Maroons, in a deal that's said to be worth around Rs 9 crore.
The national team regular, who has also worn the Indian captain's armband a few times, joined United Sikkim FC in 2011. He was part of a historic season when the club fought its way to the top flight league from the 2nd Division.
At 19, he was playing top level football in I-League, earning himself a reputation for ferocious, physical and sometimes reckless defending with little regard for his own well-being. He had experienced injuries as a junior player and he did so again at United Sikkim, but when he joined Mumbai FC in 2013 his playing style had not changed at all; and it remains the same till date.
By this time he had already broken into the Blue Tigers' camp, being an unused substitute for the senior national team at the SAFF Championship 2013. In September 2014, he played his first match for the India U-23 side.
He played for Kerala Blasters for the first time in October 2014 at the first edition of ISL. He immediately became a huge hit with the KBFC fans due to his relentless work rate and charming personality. He was awarded the 'Emerging Player of the Season' award at ISL 2014 and soon became a regular at the national team. He also played at Sporting Clube de Goa, DSK Shivajians and Bengaluru FC in loan spells. At Bengaluru, he played in continental club football for the first time, appearing in 4 AFC Cup matches and scoring a goal against Mohun Bagan.
Over time he became the de facto face of Kerala Blasters and their captain. Many fans believe him, along with Iain Hume, to be among the club's original legends. His announcement of departure from KBFC sparked a wave of sadness from the fans, but most wished him well.
No stranger to injuries, Jhingan has not been able to play a match for a whole year and had to travel abroad to seek treatment. Last time he played a competitive match was India's away match against Qatar in the World Cup Qualifiers where his hard defending played a role in the Blue Tigers' historic clean sheet against the reigning Asian champions.
He has held a long standing wish to play for a club abroad and tried to make it happen in 2020, but a combination of reasons including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, him being out of competition for a year and the money on offer, limited his options. In the end, he decided to go with one of the Indian clubs playing in AFC tournaments; choosing Mohun Bagan over FC Goa.
Members of the Mariners' squad have already started flying out to Goa to assemble at their designated hotel to be quarantined at the bio-bubble. Jhingan is expected to join his new teammates soon and join the practice session under Antonio Habas from day one.