Mendy, Chopra star picks in India football league draft


French defender Bernard Mendy emerged the top attraction at Thursday's draft for the troubled new franchised-based Indian Super League set to kick off in October.

The ex-Paris Saint-Germain star will be paid $80,000 per season to play for last-minute entrants Team Chennai following the draft held in financial hub Mumbai.

Mendy's fee was the highest forked out by franchises for the 49 retired foreign players who will play in the tournament running from October 12 to December 20.

The ISL, which hopes to popularise football in the cricket-obsessed country, is the brainchild of Reliance Industries, headed by India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, sports management giant IMG, and Rupert Murdoch's Star TV.

But no current world star has signed up for the league, which was postponed three times before organisers announced new dates during Thursday's draft ceremony.

The league, which features eight city teams, suffered a setback this week when the Banglaore franchise withdrew for unspecified reasons and was replaced by Team Chennai.

Organisers declined to reveal the identity of the Team Chennai owner, but emphasised the franchise was being backed by Italian club Inter Milan.

Among co-owners of various teams are cricket star Sachin Tendulkar, who retired last year as the leading batsman in both Test and one-day cricket, former cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, Spanish club Atletico Madrid, and Hindi movie stars Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and John Abraham.

The list of 'marquee' players exempted from the draft but whom organisers expect to play include retired stars like Manchester United's Dwight Yorke and Bojan Djordjic, Arsenal's Thierry Henry, Argentina striker Hernan Crespo, Sweden's Fredrik Ljungberg and Juventus striker David Trezeguet.

The eight teams in the fray are Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.

Former Newcastle United striker Michael Chopra, commanding a price of $58,185, went to the Kerala team co-owned by Tendulkar.

Among other major signings were Sweden's Djordjic for Chennai for $58,185 and Spanish mid-fielder Jofre Mateu for Kolkata, also for the same amount.

The league has run into fierce opposition from India's top football clubs, who say it will threaten their existence and ruin the existing national I-League domestic competition.

India, ranked a lowly 150th in the world, has seen a surge in football's popularity due to live television coverage of matches played around the globe

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