On Sunday, India's domestic season comes to a close with the Federation Cup final, between Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru. The season's highlight has obviously been Aizawl's I-League title win but a second narrative has been the dominant role of coaches in their teams' performances. A good time, then, for ESPN to look at the four best coaches in Indian football today.
The CV: Jamil moved from being captain of Mumbai FC to its head coach in 2009 when injuries cut short his playing career at 32. He helped Mumbai, a team with one of the lowest operating budgets in the I-League, avoid relegation each season till 2016, when he left for Aizawl FC. Mumbai finished bottom of the league in 2017.
Recent record: Jamil's Aizawl FC made history as the first club from the north-east to win an I-League title. They did so in emphatic fashion, staying unbeaten at home and in fact winning eight of nine matches played in Aizawl. Their game was centred around a tight defence and superb fitness levels that enabled them to salvage wins and draws late in several contests. They subsequently made the Federation Cup semi-final to prove the league triumph was no fluke.
Talking tactics: Aizawl's title-winners had two discernible qualities that could be attributed to Jamil. One, the sense of self-assurance and grit that he welded into the psyche of a young squad. Two, the innovative use of players he knew well -- Liberian Alfred Jaryan was converted from a striker to a central midfielder, and defender Ashutosh Mehta employed in some games as a proper winger.
The CV: Sanjoy Sen took over as coach of Mohun Bagan in 2014 after impressive work with United Sports Club and Mohammedan Sporting. His time at Mohammedan was capped off with a victory in the 2014 IFA Shield. He won the I-League in his inaugural outing with Mohun Bagan, and has got them two successive runners-up finishes since.
Recent record: Bagan kept their record of winning a national title with the Federation Cup last year and even won the first playoff stage of the AFC Champions League.
Talking tactics: Recruitment of quality foreign players, with Haitian Sony Norde joined progressively in attack by Pierre Boya of Ivory Coast, Cornell Glen of Trinidad and Tobago, and Scotsman Darryl Duffy. His on-field tactics have clicked; Norde and the Japanese Katsumi Yusa play wide, with two holding midfielders shielding the back four. Sen has also done well to retain some of India's best talent, including goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and strikers Balwant Singh and Jeje Lalpekhlua.
The CV: Roca spent a decade as assistant to Frank Rijkaard, including five years at Barcelona, before coming to Bengaluru in July 2016 to replace Ashley Westwood. The expectations were massive: Under Westwood, Bengaluru had won two league titles in three seasons and a Federation Cup for good measure.
Recent record: In his first three months in charge Roca took BFC to the final of the AFC Cup, becoming the first Indian club to go that far in an AFC competition. They began their league title defence with three home wins on the trot, keeping clean sheets in all, but then struggled to win, especially on the road. A fourth-place finish looks a poor return but they finished just seven points behind champions Aizawl FC. They also managed the biggest margin of victory for the season (7-0 vs DSK Shivajians), and are in Sunday's Federation Cup final. They've also prospered in the AFC Cup, where they now have a virtual knockout game in the group stages at home against Maziya of Maldives on May 31.
Talking tactics: Westwood tapped into, and mentored, some of Bengaluru's younger players but Roca helped them explore the full range of their abilities. Roca has also brought in a three-at-the-back system that has enabled his team to use more pace on the flanks and gives them a numerical advantage in midfield and attack. When missing key players, he's handed greater responsibilities to his younger players, who have responded magnificently.
The CV: Thangboi Singto had already been involved with Shillong Lajong's youth development scheme for four years when he took over as coach in 2013. Lajong were the first club from the north-east to play in India's top division and have held their place since, their stability due in some part to their practice of playing youngsters from the eight states of the north-east.
Recent record: Singto took Shillong Lajong to the semi-finals of the Federation Cup in 2016, and then stated before the 2017 I-League that his goal was simply to improve on the club's previous best standing of sixth. They would eventually do that comfortably; they also recorded some memorable wins, especially at home, to bounce back from a poor start to the season.
Talking tactics: Lajong's performance this past season was marked by two trends. One, using graduates from the in-house youth system as a base; several players who started regularly for Lajong this season have played together in the club's youth teams for a number of years. The Indian players like Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Isaac Vanmalsawma, Redeem Tlang and Bipin Singh all had a terrific season. And two, individual star players had good seasons; Cameroonian Aser Dipanda's 11 goals made him the league's top scorer and goalkeeper Vishal Kaith was one of three Lajong players recently named in India's probables for their next two internationals.