Indian football: Most versatile players in the country

A look at some Indian players who are capable of playing in different positions and putting in a solid shift ….

Versatile players are true gems for any side in times crisis induced by injuries or suspensions. They can also help ease transition phases into a new manager or new system, offering some much-needed tactical flexibility.

Here, we take a look at some of the most versatile players in the country.

Edwin Sydney Vanspaul

The find of the 2017-18 I-League season, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul’s ability to play in multiple positions makes him a very special player. He started out as a right-winger but shifted to central midfield and left-back quite often under the then coach V Soundararajan. Another spectacular season with the club under Akbar Nawas earned him a ticket to Chennaiyin FC ahead of the 2019-20 season.

At Chennaiyin, he started off at right-back under John Gregory. New coach Owen Coyle preferred having him in a double-pivot alongside Anirudh Thapa with Rafael Crivellaro just ahead of them. Yet again, Edwin impressed across the pitch and proved to be a vital cog in Chennaiyin’s season.

Prabir Das

Prabir Das v Bengaluru FC

Two-time ISL winner Prabir Das boasts of an impressive CV on the versatility front. He played a key role in ATK’s third ISL title, playing as a right-wing-back for most parts of the season.

Primarily a right-back, Prabir played as a central midfielder and as a right-winger during his two year-stint with Mohun Bagan. He also slotted into the left-back position when necessary.

At ATK, he functioned mostly as a right-back under Teddy Sheringham. Antonio Habas converted him into a right-wing-back in the 2019-20 season. While Prabir has done justice in all positions, his performances as a right-wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation have stood out.

Harmanjot Khabra

Harmanjot Khabra Rahul Bheke Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru midfielder Khabra is, perhaps, the most versatile players in the country, a jack of all trades. He started his career at Sporting Goa as a right-back and an attacking midfielder and also operated as a box-to-box midfielder at times.

At East Bengal, Khabra shifted from the right-wing position to right-back quite often and also played at left-back and in defensive midfield under Trevor Morgan.

At Bengaluru, the 31-year-old has shuffled between right-back and central midfield. He also played a few games as a left-back and in attacking midfield ahead of the double pivot of Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu.

He was among the first names on the team-sheet for Carles Cuadrat, thanks to this versatility.

Brandon Fernandes

Brandon Fernandes FC Goa ISL 6

Brandon Fernandes is currently one of the best midfielders in India and versatility is just one among his many virtues. The Goan has impressed under Igor Stimac and was arguably FC Goa’s best Indian player last season.

Primarily an attacking midfielder, Brandon has played on either wing under Sergio Lobera. He has also played on either side of attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation and has made each position his own.

For the national team, he has played across the midfield and was the major source of creativity in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Adil Khan

Adil Khan India

Primarily a defensive midfielder, Adil Khan performed filled in at the centre-back position for India during in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Ever since, he made the position his own for club and country.

He has played as a defensive midfielder, a centre-back in a three-man defence and as a centre-back in a four-man defence last season under for Hyderabad FC. He can also function as a right-midfielder and in a double pivot.

Adil impressed in all these positions but was most effective as a centre-back.

Shubham Sarangi

Shubham Sarangi Odisha FC

Vishakapatnam-born Shubham Sarangi burst onto the big stage as a striker for the Indian U-17 team during the U-17 World Cup in 2017. He graduated from the Minerva Punjab Academy and grabbed the limelight with some stellar performances in the U-15 and U-18 I-League.

However, Josep Gombau deployed him as a midfielder during his first season with Delhi Dynamos. Having impressed in this position, the Spaniard stuck to playing him in the back-line at Odisha FC and Sarangi has done justice to his manager’s faith him.

Ashique Kuruniyan

Bengaluru FC Ashique

Ashique Kuruniyan was one of the bright spots for India in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. He started as a centre forward and drifted wide, beating defenders with pace on counter-attacks. His attacking prowess earned him a big-money transfer to Bengaluru ahead of the 2019-20 season.

The 22-year-old performs best as a left-winger but Carles Cuadrat played him as a left-back more often. He also played as a full-back for the national team during their 1-0 defeat to Oman in the 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Cuadrat also tested Ashique at right-wing but he was most reactive on the left flank. It was a season to forget for the youngster but the talent is undeniable.

Michael Soosairaj

Michael Soosairaj Mumbai City ATK FC ISL 6

This list would be incomplete without the extremely talented midfielder from Tamil Nadu. Michael Soosairaj started his professional career as a midfielder for Chennai City FC in the CFA Senior Division. He played as a central and attacking midfielder and was their standout player during the 2017-18 season. This earned him the I-League Midfielder of the Season award from All Inidia Football Federaion.

At Jamshedpur FC, he impressed on either wing and consistent performances throughout the season earned him a national team call-up.

In Antonio Habas’ 3-5-2 system at ATK, Soosairaj played as a left-wing-back. To his standards, the 25-year-old did not enjoy the best of seasons in this position. However, he has proved to be one of the most talented and versatile players in the country.

Nikhil Poojary

Nikhil Poojary v Bengaluru FC

Hyderabad FC winger Nikhil Poojary showcased his versatility in the sixth edition of the ISL. The club had a season to forget but some players enjoyed some positive moments scattered throughout the season.

The Mangaluru-born is primarily a right-winger but has measured the length of both flanks this season. Between Phil Brown and Javier Lopez, Nikhil has played as a right-winger, right-back, left-winger, left-back and as a right-wing-back in a 3-5-2 system.

His brilliance has been in glimpses and there is still room for improvement with consistency. However, he could be a valuable asset to club and country given his versatility.

Souvik Chakrabarti

Souvik Chakrabarti v Chennaiyin FC

The 28-year-old Chakrabarti is yet another of a versatile player. After coming through the ranks of Mohun Bagan and then Pailan Arrows, Chakrabarti impressed as a box-to-box midfielder for Bagan in the I-League as they won the title in 2014-15.

His versatility came handy when he went on loan to Delhi Dynamos where he played as a right-back and a left-back, occasionally. He continued to play as a right-back for Jamshedpur FC later.

He moved to Mumbai City later, establishing himself as a right-back before making the move to Hyderabad FC in January earlier.

Sumeet Passi

paSumeet Passi Hyderabad FC Jamshedpur FC ISL 6

As far as versatility goes, Sumeet Passi has shown that he has what it takes to play in mulitple positions. The 25-year-old started his career as a striker, coming through the Indian Arrows set up before joining Sporting Goa and then NorthEast United.

His lanky figure even earned him national team call-ups under Stephen Constantine but his form in front of goal dipped among injury concerns in the recent past. He has been used by his current team Jamshedpur FC as an auxilliary striker as well as an emergency left-back at times.