ISL 2023-24: Rahul Bheke, Ahmed Jahouh and Dimi Petratos headline ESPN's Team of the Season

Rahul Bheke, Ahmed Jahouh and Dimi Petratos are all part of ESPN's team of the season. ESPN

The Indian Super League's tenth season came to a fitting conclusion as the two best teams in the land walked away with silverware - Mohun Bagan Super Giant winning the League Shield, while Mumbai City FC won the ISL Cup.

After a thrilling campaign with plenty of twists and turns, it's time for ESPN India to pick the league's best, in our Team of the Season.

We continue to stick to the ISL's 4+2 foreigner rule, which is quite the task given the quality the overseas players have displayed this year. Curiously, there are four repeat appearances from last year's team of the season, pointing to the consistency the league's superstars have displayed.

Goalkeeper: Vishal Kaith (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

The race for the golden glove was quite a close one, with Vishal Kaith and Phurba Lachenpa ending up with 10 clean sheets each. However, clean sheets are perhaps not the best metric to judge a goalkeeper over the course of a season, given the defenders ahead of him also play a huge role.

Amrinder Singh comes out on top with the highest save percentage and most number of goals prevented. However, when it mattered the most, both Lachenpa and Amrinder made high-profile errors (both from a Dimi Petratos shot) in the playoffs. Kaith in contrast, remained consistent throughout - with barely an error all season even if he didn't dominate the goalkeeping statistics. His penalty-saving prowess wasn't needed this season, but as an overall pick, it's hard to look past the Bagan custodian.

Right back: Rahul Bheke (Mumbai City FC)

Mumbai City's trophy-winning season owes a lot to Rahul Bheke, with the captain a steady hand at the wheel amidst troubled waters. Bheke remained the one constant in an ever-changing season, with both managers shuffling him across the backline and nary a reduction in quality.

However, his display against Noah Sadaoui in the semifinal earns him the right-back spot, a complete defensive masterclass. Bheke doesn't top the statistical charts in any measure, barring progressive passes from defence - Amey Ranawade has him beat in a couple of areas - but he is our pick for the right-back spot for the intangibles he brings along with him, which is also why he captains this team.

Right centre-back: Tiri (Mumbai City FC)

Hector Yuste made quite the case for the centre-back spot, but after watching Roy Krishna dismantle him in the semifinal, coupled with a poor clearance that led to a goal in the final against Mumbai, means Tiri takes over the role (although Odei Onaindia runs him close).

The Spaniard is exactly what you would want in a modern defender - equally adept with the ball (a league-leading 136 long balls) while also being a master of the defensive arts (winning 91.7% of his tackles and amongst the top three in winning aerial duels in the league). He's marshalled a defensive recovery in Mumbai's mid-season shuffle and also takes the cake for the best response to social media trolls this season.

Left centre-back: Subhasish Bose (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

Ostensibly a left-back, Bose had to switch gears a game into Antonio Habas' reign, as the 3-4-1-2 formation returned. Tasked with marshalling the left side of the pitch, with Liston Colaco his only support, Bose has been asked to effectively defend two positions, but has done so with aplomb. Bose is statistically one of the best duel-winners in the league, and given the high-risk nature of his role, his accomplished defending has allowed Bagan to overload their attack. It's fair to say that Habas' revival would not have occurred without him.

Left back: Jay Gupta (FC Goa)

Quite the breakout season for the Goan youngster, who'd caught the eye early on with some astonishing long-range strikes. However, it's been his chance creation that's cemented his spot in Manolo Marquez's team - 30 chances created over the course of the season the most by any defender. Gupta is equally adept at an overlapping run (from which he can whip in a cross) or an underlapping run (from which he can let fly from range) and this twin threat has caused opposing defences all sorts of problems this season. Defensively, he can still improve, but under Marquez's tutelage, it will only be a matter of time, as will a national team call-up.

Defensive midfield: Ahmed Jahouh (Odisha FC)

Ahmed Jahouh leads the league in accurate passes, accurate long balls (both frequency and accuracy) and is the league's best playmaker from deep. Joni Kauko and Yoell van Nieff were options for this spot, but they are quite the secondary options - the no-look pass specialist is a no-look option in this role, which can only be Jahouh's.

Sergio Lobera cannot win without him on the pitch, and he was a crucial component to Odisha's semifinal and AFC Cup run this year. He may only be strolling on the pitch, but Jahouh's defensive nous means he's often in the right spot, to prevent a goal and start a transition.

Central midfield: Apuia (Mumbai City FC)

Apuia makes a second consecutive appearance in our Team of the Season list and it's a testament to his consistency. The Indian midfielder can operate both in a single and double pivot at the base of midfield, and this flexibility was crucial to both Des Buckingham and Petr Kratky as they varied their midfield setups throughout the season.

His defensive stats remain amongst the best in the league (recoveries, possession won in the final third, tackles and duels won) but his progressive passing has improved this season. His goal-threat has diminished, but that's a result of a tactical tweak, meaning he doesn't crash the box as often as he did last season.

Attacking midfield: Brandon Fernandes (FC Goa)

For once, injuries haven't plagued Brandon Fernandes as much, and the result is obvious. Brandon created the most chances in the league (59) and had the most expected assists (5.7) of any player. That he only finished with four assists is perhaps reflective of the lack of a killer instinct in FC Goa's attack.

Maybe that's why he took it upon himself to score two outstanding long-rangers in the playoffs, where he really deserved to be on the winning team. Keep this form up next year, and FC Goa will be in the conversation for silverware again.

Right winger: Lallianzuala Chhangte (Mumbai City FC)

Our player of the season, for the second consecutive season. No contest.

Centre Forward: Dimi Petratos (Mohun Bagan Super Giant)

Carefully thought-out tactics and well-drilled defences that have mastered minute details - Dimi Petratos is a one-man army that can lay all of those to waste. Mohun Bagan's super giant has continued where he left off from last season, and it's no surprise to see him lead the league in goal contributions.

He's been played in a deeper role ever since Habas' return but that has not stopped the Australian from scoring, all while being second in the assists chart. Petratos is the perfect centre-forward, unselfish when he needs to be and capable of changing a game on his own when needed. Jason Cummings owes a lot to Petratos' ability to provide, failing which he might not have topped the scoring charts this season.

Left winger: Noah Sadaoui (FC Goa)

He's been name-checked by multiple managers as the best player in the league, and with good reason. The Moroccan was second only to Petratos in goal contributions this season, but when you factor in the sheer terror he caused, it's perhaps understandable that he occupies the brains of opposition managers when facing FC Goa.

Sadaoui led the league in expected goals on target (11.8), meaning he could fashion better shots on goal from even low-xG situations, an absolute gift to any manager. However, his failure in the semifinal against Mumbai is an area of improvement for the future. Yet, after a profligate season last year, Sadaoui has turned into one of the league's most lethal attackers, which shows an improvement is not beyond him.


From the nine substitutes allowed, we've opted for one goalkeeper, two defenders, three midfielders and three forwards. Manvir Singh's hybrid role as right wing-back for Bagan means we have him down as a midfielder, while Madih Talal and Dimitrios Diamantakos are the two foreigners (leading the league stage in assists and goals). Vikram Partap Singh can consider himself unfortunate to not make the starting XI, as can most of the substitutes in this list.

Phurba Lachenpa (Mumbai City FC); Amey Ranawade (Odisha FC), Anwar Ali (Mohun Bagan SG); Manvir Singh (Mohun Bagan SG), Madih Talal (Punjab FC), Vibin Mohanan (Kerala Blasters); Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai City FC), Parthib Gogoi (NorthEast United), Dimitrios Diamantakos (Kerala Blasters).

Coach of the Year: Petr Kratky (Mumbai City FC)

There were plenty of candidates this year - apart from the trophy-winning managers (Petr Kratky, Antonio Habas, Carles Cuadrat), we saw the likes of Owen Coyle, Staikos Vergetis and Juan Pedro Benali fashion a lot from very unfancied squads, while Manolo Marquez, Sergio Lobera and Ivan Vukomanovic are always in the conversation for their consistency.

Yet, given the task of replacing a beloved coach in Des Buckingham, whilst also losing the best players from his squad and dealing with constant injuries and suspensions throughout the season, to then walking away with the Cup, we've opted for Petr Kratky.

The Czech coach walked into a team that had three clean sheets from 16 games (two of which came in the Durand Cup) and immediately started with two goalless draws to settle things, before building from that foundation. Kratky never hesitated to throw his young Indian players into the deep end, which has seen the likes of Vikram blossom, and in crucial moments in the playoffs, Mumbai won with fewer foreigners than the quota allowed. It's almost unheard of in the ISL, that a coach trusts his domestic contingent more, but Kratky continues to march to the beat of his drum.

That he overcame the turmoil of the season to win the Cup and was one draw away from the double is a testament to his man-management and tactical nous.