Erik Paartalu: Rahul Bheke is the best Indian defender

In the AFC champions League match against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Bheke headed home a 75th minute winner to help the Mumbai City FC secure a 2-1 win.

Mumbai City defender Rahul Bheke; Credit: Twitter/@MumbaiCityFC
By Sreejith C R | May 8, 2022 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Former Bengaluru FC midfielder Erik Paartalu says Mumbai City FC’s Rahul Bheke is the best defender in India. The 36-year-old Australian praised his former teammate for his performance in the AFC Champions League. The Indian international has been a consistent performer for whichever club he has played for in the Indian super League and now at the age of 31, he has grown into a leader in the defence for both his club Mumbai city FC and the national team. Last month, Mumbai City FC ended their AFC Champions League campaign on a high with a 1-0 win over Air Force club in the final encounter on April 27. The ISL club’s maiden continental stint ended with two wins and a draw in six group stage fixtures and Bheke was one of the star-performers for the Islanders.

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Bheke has a knack of scoring crucial goals

While speaking to Injury time India, Paartalu said:  “For me, Bheke is the best Indian I’ve played with, and you only got to look at his record. What he’s done at the AFC Champions League game. He scored in the Super Cup final and scored a goal in the ISL final too. Also, the first Indian to score in the Champions League. When you watch him play, he looks very graceful.”

In the 2019 ISL final, Bheke scored a 117th-minute winner as Bengaluru FC defeated FC Goa to clinch their maiden ISL title. Three years later, he has once again popped up with another important goal in the history of Indian football. In the AFC champions League match against Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Bheke headed home a 75th minute winner to help the Islanders secure a 2-1 win. It was a first ever victory by an Indian outfit in the competition and Bheke became the first Indian to score in the prestigious tournament.

Bheke is well built: Paartalu

Paartalu was impressed with the body structure of Bheke as it’s rare to find Indian players with such built. “He’s got a body that it looks as though it hasn’t been built here. And that’s not been disrespectful. But you can see, he has a lot of muscle and the way he controls and glides with the ball. It’s something you can’t even be taught. He just has an ability and confidence that you don’t expect when you see him receive the ball. You’re gonna go and close him down. I’m going to get the ball and he just somehow gets the ball. So as a defender, I don’t think there’s better than him in the country,” he added.

Bheke is a versatile defender

Bheke made his senior national team debut against Curacao in June 2019 during the King’s Cup in Thailand and then went on to make 20 appearances for the Blue Tigers. He further featured in the FIFA World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 combined qualifiers. The Mumbaikar has played for Air India, Mumbai Tigers and Mumbai FC during his early days as a professional footballer, before joining East Bengal in 2015. The 31-year-old is a luxury for a coach because of his ability to adapt according to the situation and the needs of the team. He can comfortably fit into both a three-man defence and a two-man central defence. Moreover, he can play at both the wing-back positions. His ability to deliver long throw-ins is also handy.

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