Pedro Manzi scored 23 goals last I-League season for Chennai City FC, and ended up as joint top scorer.
Even in their relegation to second league status, the I-league cannot help but eclipse its more glamorous cousin, the Indian Super League (ISL). The ISL may have the administrative clout, the commercial backing and the more fancied players, but — at least for now — it is the I-League that has claimed another Indian football record for itself: That of raking in the highest transfer fee for a player sold from the Indian football diaspora.
In a landmark deal with Japanese J2 league club Albirex Niigata, Chennai City FC have released their striker Pedro Manzi for a rumoured fee of Rs. 1 crore. Manzi was the spearhead in Chennai City’s brilliant Spanish trio which led the charge for their maiden I-League title last season. He scored 23 goals last season and ended up as joint top scorer for the season.
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In a statement, Manzi who signed a four-year contract with Chennai at the start of the campaign, thanked the club for his time in India and said he was looking forward to a fresh challenge.
“I would like to thank everyone in Chennai City and the club will always remain in my heart. I also want to thank everyone involved in Albirex Niigata for giving me a new challenge. I go to Japan with hope and will work hard to achieve the goals set by the team,” he said.
The last time an Indian club claimed such a high transfer fee for a player was in February 2018 when Bengaluru FC sold midfielder Edu Garcia to second division Chinese Super League club Zhejiang Greentown for $110,000.
Chennai City haven’t started the season as expected, with just the solitary win from their opening five games. Their indifferent form has left them languishing in eighth place on the I-League table. The club are also set to start their continental outing in the Asian Champions League First Round Qualifiers against Bahrain club Al Riffa at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on January 14. In addition to Manzi, the club also lost Nestor Gordillo at the end of last season in what was a contentious transfer saga with the erstwhile ISL franchise Pune City FC.
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At the end of the last I-league season, Chennai City FC launched a complaint over the way FC Pune City had unsettled the player, and eventually poached him from the club. The player’s status committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) imposed a two-window transfer ban on Indian Super League (ISL) side FC Pune City, along with a fine of Rs 5 lakh, for “inducing a breach of contract” to sign the Spanish midfielder without paying Chennai City FC the transfer fee.
Of the Spanish trio, only Roberto Eslava, the club captain, survives the season as Chennai City look to kick their season into gear in a derby against Gokulam Kerala in Kozhikode on January 9.
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