On a Sunday afternoon in November 2002, two men dressed in white spent 90 minutes tormenting the Leeds United defence on course to a 2-0 victory at White Hart Lane. One of the two men was Robbie Keane, a spikey 22-year-old signed from Leeds just three months before. The other was club legend Teddy Sheringham, who had returned to Spurs the previous season after four years at Manchester United.
Keane arrived at White Hart Lane that season to awaken a sleeping giant in Tottenham Hotspur. Fifteen years later, he'd be hoping to make a similar impact at Atletico de Kolkata under his former team-mate and mentor Sheringham. The master and the pupil face a different challenge in the ISL, but they'd be hoping to recreate the magic of 2002, when they combined seamlessly, and finished joint top-scorers for Spurs.
Keane turned 37 last month, but ATK have acquired a striker who has still got goals in him (10 goals for LA Galaxy in 2016), can have a positive influence on the dressing room and also draw crowds as a big-name signing. The prospect of reuniting him with someone he played alongside should bring them value for the money (Approx. Rs. 12 crore) they paid for the Irishman.
In keeping with their other acquisitions during the window, Keane's arrival reiterates the fact that ATK mean serious business. In Ashley Westwood as technical director, they have a tactical mastermind who knows Indian conditions well. In Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Jayesh Rane they have two midfielders who can perform over lengthier seasons (Both excelled for Bengaluru FC and Aizawl FC during their respective league-winning campaigns). In fact, Lyngdoh's best performances came under Westwood the first time BFC won the I-League.
In Prabir Das and Ashutosh Mehta they have two of India's best full-backs, with Keegan Pereira also in that mix. The experienced Anwar Ali and Augustin Fernandes complete a formidable defence. Behind them is Debjit Majumder, the goalkeeper who played every game en route to ATK's second ISL title last season. And then there's Robin Singh - not the most clinical of strikers, but another player whom Westwood got the best out of at BFC.
Each team was given Rs. 18 crore to spend on transfers. ATK have Rs. 12.38 crore left to shop with after spending 5.6 cr in the player draft. The signing of Keane -- their first foreign coup -- doesn't fall under the 18 crore bracket, because he is a marquee signing. This makes way for more foreign recruits for the defending champions. If they manage to add a bit of fire power on the wings, an attacking midfielder, and maybe another strike partner for Keane, ATK will be the team to beat in the new, lengthier ISL.
On that November afternoon in 2002, both Keane and Sheringham scored spectacular goals. Equally impressive was their teamwork, intricate passing and understanding of each other's play. Starting November 2017, they'd be hoping to achieve similar goals in their new workplace.