Chopra was chosen for USD 58,185 in the first round of the seven-round draft in which all eight franchises of the IPL-style tournament took part. The striker, a product of Newcastle United’s youth system, is currently a free agent after being released by Blackpool.
Kerala Blasters marquee player-cum-manager and former England custodian David James, who has played for big clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City, welcomed the addition of Chopra into the squad.
“Chopra, with his experience of playing in English football, was our first choice as a pick in the draft. He is very excited to be part of the team co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar. He wants to improve Indian football and wants to set up academies,” James said.
Chopra was not the costliest player picked up in the first few rounds of the draft. That distinction went to French central defender Bernard Mendy who commanded USD 80,000 and was drafted in by the newly inducted Chennai franchise.
Team Chennai replaced the Sun Group-promoted Bangalore franchise in the ISL which is set to be held tentatively between October 12 and December 20.
“The eighth team in the ISL would be Team Chennai represented today by Prashant Agarwal of Play on Skills which has a technical collaboration with Inter Milan in India,” said Anupam Dutta, CEO of ISL’s holding company Football Sports Development Private Limited, a joint venture between IMG-Reliance and Star India. “The owners of the Chennai franchise would be announced later,” Dutta added.
The International Player Draft offered 49 out of 56 players needed for the running of the league and Dutta said the average age was 28.
From the 49 players fielded in the draft, two went for USD 80,000 — Mendy (Chennai) and Grégory Arnolin (Goa).
The break-up was Spain (9 players), France (8), Czech Republic (8), Brazil (5), Portugal (5), Colombia (4), South Korea (2), and one each from Argentina, Canada, Serbia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, England, Greece and Cameroon.
The remaining seven were contracted directly by the four clubs — Delhi Dynamos FC (Mads Junker and Morten Skoubo), FC Pune City (Emanuele Belardi and Bruno Cirillo), NorthEast United FC (Isaac Chansa and Cornell Glen) and Atletico de Kolkata (Borja Fernandez), under the provision of signing maximum two international players by the clubs on their own.
In the other notable draft picks today, Spanish footballer Jose Manuel Gonzalez commanded USD 70,000 and was grabbed by Atletico de Kolkata. There were 34 players who commanded a price of USD 58,185 while a dozen others were taken for USD 38,790 each.