Madras: Indian Super League champions Chennaiyin FC have signed up Tamil Nadu-born duo of Nallappan Mohanraj and Dhanpal Ganesh on one-year deals.
Left back Mohanraj spent the first two ISL seasons with Atletico de Kolkata and won the tournament in 2014. He joins Chennaiyin on a free transfer after the expiry of his contract at ATK.
Central midfielder Ganesh was signed by Chennaiyin on loan from Pune FC last season after being the first draft pick of CFC in the 2015 ISL domestic player draft. But Ganesh suffered an ACL injury while on India team duty in September 2015 and thus missed the entire ISL. Chennaiyin have now signed him on a permanent basis.
Chennaiyin FC co-owner Vita Dani said, “We are delighted to have signed two of the best Tamil Nadu-born players in Mohanraj and Ganesh. We are committed to develop local talent in Tamil Nadu and at the same time we are determined to have quality current local players like Mohanraj and Ganesh in our first team. We have full faith in them to have a great season ahead.”
“Ganesh was very unlucky to be injured last year. We hope to have him at his best this season. Mohanraj is already an ISL winner and has the quality to make a big difference in our title defence,” said Chennaiyin FC head coach Marco Materazzi.
Born in Gandhipuram, Nammakal, which is eight hours away from Chennai, Mohanraj got his early football education at SDAT Madurai Sports Hostel and SAI Chennai Hostel before appearing for India at various age group levels. He was also India captain at U-19 level and had his first professional contract at HAL Bangalore before moving to Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan, where he spent five years.
Mohanraj also had a spell at Pune FC and had been part of the India senior national team setup under Bob Houghton since 2008 with the senior international debut coming in March 2011 during the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers. The 27-year-old made 11 appearances for Atletico de Kolkata over the first two ISL campaigns with his first goal in the tournament coming last season against Kerala Blasters.
“I have been playing professional football for almost a decade now and finally my dream of playing for a club in Chennai is coming true. I would like to thank all the Chennaiyin FC owners and head coach Marco Materazzi for believing in me. I can’t wait to put on the Chennaiyin jersey and play at the Marina Arena in front of our fans. Winning the ISL with ATK was great but lifting the trophy as a Chennaiyin player will be extra special and I am going to work very hard to achieve that,” said an emotional Mohanraj.
Dhanpal hails from Vyasarpadi and was Mohanraj’s junior at SAI Chennai before being signed up by Pune FC for their academy. The midfielder also had a stint at AIFF’s developmental side Arrows and then went on to play for the Pune FC senior side. The 25-year-old made his senior India debut in June 2015 and regularly featured in current India coach Stephen Constantine’s plans before suffering an unfortunate ACL injury during a match against Iran last September.