Kochi: Proving all rumors and speculations wrong, Kerala Blasters have roped in former Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen as head coach for the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) season.
The 53-year-old Dutchman reportedly signed a Rs 3.5-crore deal late on Friday, just hours before Saturday’s deadline for the appointment of head coaches for ISL clubs in the fourth edition of the glitzy league.
Meulensteen, who has worked alongside legendary Sir Alex Ferguson as the ‘skill development’ coach of Manchester United’s senior team, became the head coach of English Premier League (EPL) club’s youth squad in 2001. He was also in charge of the senior reserve team for a year.
He was assistant coach of the ‘Red Devils’ when they won the EPL title in 2008-09, 2010-11, and 2012-13 seasons under Ferguson. As Ferguson’s right-hand man, Meulensteen played a key part in the club’s major title wins, such as the UEFA Champions League in 2007-08, and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2008.
When David Moyes took over United following Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, the entire coaching and support staff were also removed, forcing Meulensteen to look for options outside England. However, he returned to London within four months to coach Fulham. He joins the Kochi side after a brief stint at Israel first division club Maccabi Haifa recently.
Meulensteen has a vast amount of coaching experience under his belt, but there are some unfamiliar challenges lying in store for him at Blasters who are in the quest to win their maiden ISL title. First and foremost, he may not be able to pick players of his choice as the ISL allows franchises to retain just two of their existing players while all other domestic signings should mandatorily come through the domestic player draft. How he is going to assess the strengths and weaknesses of local players is to be seen.
Meulensteen’s record shows he prefers players who are technically sound. He is someone who enjoys grooming young players and helps them develop their full potential and maximize their game.
Some of the top players who trained under Meulensteen during his days at Manchester United are: Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Mikael Silvestre, Carlos Tevez, Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Louis Saha, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Edwin van der Sar, Nani, and Antonio Valencia.
Coppell joins Jamshedpur FC
Steve Coppell, who had a successful stint at Blasters last year, has been appointed as the head coach of ISL new entrants Jamshedpur FC.
The franchise, owned by Tata Steel, also announced the signing of former international Ishfaq Ahmed as the assistant coach. He has also been working with Kerala Blasters for the last two seasons as an assistant coach.
The former Manchester City manager Coppell, who guided Blasters to the ISL final last year where they went down 4-3 to Atletico de Kolkata on penalties, parted ways with the Kochi side after the management failed to explore the possibility of retaining him in time.
The 61-year-old had held discussions with the Blasters management during the last Federation Cup. However, there were reports that the management did not contact him afterwards.