In a wonderfully-shot video, posted on social media by Indian Super League (ISL) runners-up Bengaluru FC (BFC), full-back Rinto Anto says he has found his home at the Bangalore-based franchise.
The Kerala-born footballer returned to BFC from their arch-rivals Kerala Blasters on a two-year deal, which was announced by the former on Wednesday, June 6.
"I'm glad to be back at this club where I made so many memories and I cannot wait to get on the pitch in a Bengaluru FC shirt once again," Thrissur-born Anto said, according to an official statement from BFC.
Despite playing for several clubs, including Kolkata franchises Mohun Bagan and ATK, Anto rose to prominence during his four-year stint with Bengaluru.
The 30-year-old fullback joined the then I-League side in 2013 and went on to win the title in his debut season. He was also part of the Bengaluru side that won the league title in 2016 and the Federation Cup titles in 2015 and 2017, making 80 appearances in his first four seasons.
Anto, a fan favourite at BFC's Sree Kanteerava Stadium, was loaned out to ATK in 2015 and then to the Blasters in 2016. He made an immediate impact at the Kerala-based franchise, playing a key role in their run to the final of Indian Super League (ISL) 2016. He then joined the Blasters on a permanent move ahead of the ISL 2017/18 draft.
Why has Anto left the Blasters
Anto's decision to leave the Blasters reportedly comes after his unsuccessful wait for a renewal of his contract, which expired on May 31. IBTimes, India had reported as early as in March that the India defender was on his way out of the Kerala-based franchise.
Head coach David James and CEO Varun Tripuraneni had been insisting the importance of the local player's role in the side but the management failed to initiate contract extension talks, according to The Times of India.
The Blasters management was not even picking calls from the player's agent at one point in time towards the end of his contract, a source told the news daily in March.
"Sometimes the team management will be hoping that they might be able to sign Rino in a low fare once the offers from other clubs dry out. This is not an ideal approach from a professional team management," the source had added.
Anto, who made a strong impact at the Blasters in 2016, struggled due to injuries in the last season as the team finished sixth on the 10-team ISL table. He made only 13 appearances out of 18 matches.
The Indian international reportedly did not want a move away from the club but most BFC fans are overjoyed with the latest development, especially after the departure of defender Subhasish Bose earlier this month.