Mohun Bagan Super Giant rang in the new year by replacing coach Juan Ferrando with Antonio Lopez Habas on Wednesday, a little over two years after having done the exact opposite. Habas, the most successful coach in ISL with two titles and a runners-up berth, will take charge from the Kalinga Super Cup later this month, the club said in a press release.

Mohun Bagan have sacked head coach Juan Fernando (Mohun Bagan)

Unbeaten in their first seven games with six wins, Mohun Bagan hit a slump in form losing their next three before ISL10 broke for the Asian Cup. Under Ferrando, who had guided them to the Durand Cup title this season with a 1-0 win against arch-rivals East Bengal, Mohun Bagan were fifth with 19 points from 10 games, seven behind leaders Kerala Blasters who have played two more.

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But for all the success at home, Mohun Bagan had faltered in the AFC Cup in successive seasons under Ferrando. This term, despite having one of the most expensive rosters in the second-tier Asian club competition, they had failed to make it out of the group.

“For the ISL Cup win, for the Durand Cup win, for the numerous memories, thank you Juan!,” the ISL champions posted on X on Wednesday afternoon, some 18 hours after having wished Ferrando “a happy 43rd birthday” on the same social media platform.

Ferrando replaced Habas on December 21, 2021, after the Spaniard activated his buy-out clause at FC Goa. Then known as ATK Mohun Bagan, the club made Ferrando one of the ISL’s most expensive coaches reportedly paying him $200,000 a season.

Under Habas in 2021-22, Mohun Bagan had failed to win their last four games in ISL season eight which was held in a bubble in Goa. Included in that run of no wins was a 1-5 defeat to Mumbai City, the club’s biggest defeat in 10 seasons of ISL.

This is Habas’ third stint at the club. He was with ATK in 2014 and 2015, winning ISL, then played with eight teams, in the competition’s first season and making the semi-final in the next. He returned in 2019-20 and won his second ISL trophy. Habas, 66, stayed on as ATK and Mohun Bagan merged but the new entity finished runners-up in 2020-21. Between stints at ATK and ATK Mohun Bagan, Habas had coached now-defunct FC Pune City in 2016 where he left after three months.

Indications of Ferrando being put under pressure had come last June, months after he had won the ISL, when Habas was appointed technical director. “Along with making a powerful first-team side, Mohun Bagan Super Giant want to stress on youth development with the aim of producing first-team players from the various age-group sides,” the club had said in a press release. The role though was at odds with Habas’s stated position of wanting more foreign players in ISL.

After Simon Grayson at Bengaluru FC and Scott Cooper at Jamshedpur FC, Ferrando is the third coach to be sacked this season.

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