His only goal for ATK was the equaliser in the ISL 2016 final which helped them regain the title in Kochi. However, Henrique Sereno Fonseca or simply Sereno, didn’t renew his association with Kolkata because “too much change is never good for football.”
“When ATK approached me, I saw that every single (foreign) player had been changed. I felt it would be very hard for this team to do well. At Chennaiyin, I knew the players being signed and knew they were better than the other side. Also, when you want to do well, you don’t only need good players but they have to be good people too,” the central defender said during an exclusive interview here.
Exactly how important the Portuguese, formerly with Vitoria Guimaraes, Porto and Valladolid, is to Chennaiyin FC can be gauged by the fact that they made him captain in ISL 2017/18.
‘Mistake by clubs’
Sereno, who said former Chelsea and Real Madrid central defender Ricardo Carvalho is someone he grew up admiring, also said it was a mistake on clubs’ part to sign players who had been a year or more off from competitive football.
“You can’t stop for one year and then play in ISL. The player should return to, say, the third division somewhere and then come to ISL the next year. This may not be the biggest competition but you still need to run and what happens when the other guy starts running faster than you? Such signings are mistakes by the club,” Sereno said.
This season, Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov were signed by ATK and Kerala Blasters respectively and neither 37-year-old really brought ISL 2017/18 alive. Both hadn’t played since 2016. Even the great Alessandro Nesta came to ISL in 2014 after a break and looked to be struggling.
The league getting longer is a step in the right direction, he said. “In three months (ISL 1-3) you can’t build a team that will go on to challenge the best in Asia. I also think ideally, the league should have 14 teams.”
But what is good for India isn’t good for Sereno. “I am 33 but I feel tired mentally. I have been away from my family for 10 years. So, this will be my last year. I hope to end my career with a second successive ISL title,” he said.
Batting for de Matos
Sereno said Indian Arrows playing in the I-League under Luis Norton de Matos, his coach at Guimaraes in Portugal, was a good idea. “This experience of playing against men will help these boys when they play for India at the under-19 level,” he said.
And in de Matos, Sereno said, they have the right mentor. “He has helped players such as Renato Sanches (loaned by Bayern to Swansea City), Victor Lindelof (United), Andre Gomes (Barcelona) grow. He will help these boys from Arrows become fine players,” said Sereno.