Meet Roy Krishna: A-league MVP is ATK's big signing
In Roy Krishna's own words, "it's not often that little island boys get to the big stage."
Krishna officially sealed a one-year deal with Indian Super League side ATK this week, after confirming last month he would not be re-signing with the Wellington Phoenix. Seeking a move overseas, he reportedly turned down other offers, returning to his ancestral home.
"It was not just about me, it was about my family," he told New Zealand website Stuff. "Obviously my forefathers came from there 140 years ago, so I'm going back after 140 years. I'm excited, I'm happy and I know I've made the right decision."
Footballers, or any athlete for that matter, should not be begrudged for the proverbial cash-out after a period of high performance. They have the right to leverage their worth, but the reigning Johnny Warren medallist has the individual tools to play anywhere in Asia.
It had been a whirlwind A-League season for the Fijian international, scoring 19 goals and adding five assists in 27 appearances. Because of those goals in large part, the Phoenix secured their first finals appearance since 2014-15.
The word whirlwind is also an apt way to describe Roy Krishna as a footballer - though a relatively short player, he's one who storms around defences and creates panic with his energy, physicality and speed, while displaying an eye for goal and adequate technical ability to exploit in space. It is difficult to ignore just how massive a leap Krishna made from the previous season -- where he only tallied four goals and five assists -- and why that happened, though.
Over the past two seasons, Krishna has been a fine example of the fact players can thrive and struggle within differing team environments. Both in tactical and interpersonal senses. How the 31-year-old was utilised was arguably a reflection of how he was treated by respective coaches.
Under Darije Kalezic in 2017-18, Krishna regularly looked a player going through the motions. There was also the way the team approached games under Kalezic and how Krishna was utilised within that setup - primarily defending in deep blocks to attack in transition, while Andrija Kaluderovic was a definitive end point in attacking play. There was a disjointed nature in their play which suggested a disjointed dressing room. Kalezic's departure in March 2018 all but confirmed it.
The arrival of Mark Rudan, who took over as Phoenix coach, signalled a significant shift. Though similarly reactive to the previous season, the nature of approach was far different. A shift from a conventional 4-2-3-1 formation to 3-4-3 required more pace and interchangeability both with and without the ball. Attacking midfielder Sarpreet Singh was the attacking reference point, Krishna and David Williams proving compatible foils. Instead of primarily sitting deep, the Phoenix pressed relentlessly and when they attacked, they attacked with purpose and clarity.
The style of play was a maximisation of Krishna's attributes, with his energy, ability to dribble at speed and composure in front of goal. As a consequence, he excelled as part of an attacking triumvirate with Singh and Williams, along with support from wing-backs in Liberato Cacace and Louis Fenton.
In comparison to the previous season, there was a connectivity and togetherness to the Phoenix on their way to the final -- a testament to the faith and confidence shown in the players. In joining ATK, though, it seemed fitting Krishna would make reference to those very concepts of faith and worth.
"The clubs kept coming and I wanted to stay in the A-League but it comes down to who values me more," he said. "Then I talked to my family and I think ATK was the right club. They valued me more and that's all I can say."