The Indian Super League is set to begin its second ever season next weekend when defending (finals series) champions Atlético de Kolkata take on last year's regular season champions Chennaiyin FC on Saturday. Marking the occasion, eight of the biggest international stars of the league gathered in Mumbai for a swanky launch event, including former Chelsea players Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda, and Adrian Mutu.
Both Mutu and Anelka are "marquee" players in the league, and they join a minimum (that's right, minimum) of seven other international stars that each team has to sign as per league rules. Most teams have the maximum 10, and they include a rather random collection of players well into their 30s, spreading the good word of football and collecting one last paycheck.
Florent Malouda plays for Delhi Dynamos as does former Liverpool and Fulham star John Arne Riise. Roberto Carlos, now 42, is their marquee player. And manager.
Nicolas Anelka is also a player-manager, over at Mumbai City FC. Here's a pretty good interview with him where he talks about the transition from a playing to a coaching role, which is especially difficult for him as he's a very private, reserved person (who, as we know, is never too far from controversy). But I do have a soft spot for Nico, as Chelsea seems to have been the one stop in his career where he, at least for a while, found some stability and true happiness beyond just the business of playing football every day.
One player for whom I don't have much of a soft spot for at all is Adrian Mutu, who still owes us a good chunk of money from that time he decided to snort away his football career, but he's still a former Blue (and he was ridiculously good in Champions Manager 01-02) so he warrants a mention. He's Pune City's marquee man and is joined, among others, by former Premier Leaguers Didier Zokora, Tuncay Sanli, Nicky Shorey, Roger Johnson, goalkeeper Steve Simonsen, and manager David Platt.
The season runs from October to December, with the top four finishers in the eight-team league contesting a playoff to determine the overall winner. Good luck to them all.