Former Barcelona assistant coach Sergio Lobera is starting to pull up trees with Mumbai City in the Indian Super League (ISL). Following a solid three-year spell with Goa, Lobera’s stay on the south-west coast ended abruptly last January, following a string of disagreements with the franchise’s board of directors.
Having been involved at the highest level of European football with FC Barcelona, Lobera was an easy choice for Mumbai City, who were looking for a new head coach to inspire them into their new era under the ownership of the City Football Group (CFG). He had long been a thorn in their side during his time with Goa. After 15 domestic games in charge, Lobera has a 66.67% winning percentage – his best so far in football management.
In fact, Mumbai City looks well placed to finish the regular ISL season at the top of the table, going into the playoff stage as red-hot favorites to win the ISL Finals for the first time in the club’s history. It’s all good news for CFG, who made Mumbai City their eighth professional football club to buy a majority stake in back in November 2019. Head coach Lobera believes that the “mentality” of CFG is “providing [him] the best possible conditions” to improve the Islanders. CFG look set to be celebrating another English Premier League (EPL) title this year too, with Manchester City seemingly cantering to the 2020/21 championship. Their odds to win the EPL are now as short as -1600 with FOX Bet, which is a rapidly expanding sports betting site in the US, underpinned by the iconic FOX Sports branding.
Lobera’s coaching style is inspired heavily by his time at the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Having spent eight years with the Catalan giants, Lobera is a firm believer in Pep Guardiola’s “style of football” and the need to bring “enjoyment to the fans”. For Lobera, “how you are bringing” a win on the football pitch is just as important as winning games. It’s therefore clear that Lobera and the CFG are singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of footballing philosophies.
The Mumbai City roster has had some notable overseas stars through the years, since the inauguration of the ISL. The likes of Arsenal greats Freddie Ljungberg and Nicolas Anelka and the former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan have all worn the Cityzens’ jersey. In fact, Forlan was the focal point of the City attack the last time Mumbai City finished top of the ISL in 2016.
Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai City has a new hot-shot to spearhead their front line in 2021 with Adam Le Fondre currently in red-hot form for the Islanders. Le Fondre joined on a season-long loan from Australian A-League side Sydney FC – who themselves turned down an ownership bid from CFG – and has since notched an impressive nine goals in 16 ISL appearances at an average of more than a goal every other game. This has made him one of the ISL’s most feared marksmen, alongside the experienced Spanish forward Igor Angulo. Le Fondre also has the pace and power of Nigerian forward Bartholomew Ogbeche alongside him, having joined following hugely impressive spells with NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters respectively.
Having spent the last part of a decade working at FC Barcelona, a club that places great emphasis on developing its own talent in-house, Sergio Lobera is keen to ensure his Mumbai City squad contains more than a smattering of homegrown prospects. Lobera says it is “a pleasure” to be given the chance of working and “increasing the confidence” in Indian players. Lobera believes it is “really possible” to turn some of City’s homegrown players into ISL stars as they not only have “the quality” but the “aptitude necessary” to work hard and improve their game.
Lobera has certainly made a hugely positive impression on Indian football in such a short space of time. Some have suggested he could be a future candidate to manage the Indian national team. Lobera believes his secret to making his teams successful is simple – “very good players and staff”. There’s no doubt that the CFG’s investment is giving Lobera the perfect foundation to win trophies with the Citizens.
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