Minerva Punjab sent shockwaves when they beat Churchill Brothers 1-0 in Panchkula and became the I-League champions in their second season in top-flight football. They did not go after any star player but instead chose to build their squad by roping in peripheral players who are talented and yet did not burn a hole in the pocket.
Few had heard of Chencho Gyeltshen, Kamalpreet Singh, Abhishek Ambekar before the start of the season but they all became household names in the domestic football circuit after their awe-inspiring performances in the I-League.
Interestingly, Minerva are happy to let go of their players for greener pastures and fatter pay cheque. "We have a minimum of two-year contracts with all Indian players. But we are not holding on to any of them if we are getting a better offer or the player concerned wants to move away for better opportunities. If they are fine with the offers that they are getting, I am happy for them," said Ranjit Bajaj, owner of Minerva Punjab.
Moinuddin Khan, who scored the equaliser against Mohun Bagan at the dying minutes in the inaugural match of the I-League is all set to join the Mariners. Abhishek Ambekar and Rakshit Dagar will also take the same flight to Kolkata and join Mohun Bagan and East Bengal respectively.
Skipper Kassim Aidara has also been released by Minerva and the Senegalese footballer will have to pay 25 per cent of the transfer fee to Minerva if he chooses to join any other Indian club. Armand Bazzie, who was signed as a free agent in the middle of the season, has also not renewed his contract. But Guy Eric Dano, who has been impressive in defence for Minerva, is most likely to continue with the Chandigarh based club.
The two Kolkata powerhouses and a host of ISL clubs have already contacted Chencho for next season, but the Bhutanese is yet to commit his future. Gagandeep Bali, who scored three goals and assisted twice is also on the radar of the Kolkata clubs. Girik Khosla has two more years in his contract with Minerva and is likely to continue with the I-League champions.
Kamalpreet Singh is in advanced talks with ATK while Sukhdev Singh has also received some interest from ISL teams.
All the key architects behind the success of Minerva have already left or are on the verge of leaving the club. What remains to be seen is that, can Minerva replicate their success with a newly assembled team?