Rahul Bheke news: Is the Mumbai City FC man the best Indian defender?

The 31-year-old made his international debut in 2019 against Curacao in the Kings Cup in Thailand and then went on to make 20 appearances for the Blue Tigers.

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

Mumbai City FC man Rahul Bheke has grown into one of the best defenders in India over the last few years. The Mumbaikar is proving to be the man for the big occasions after his heroics for the Islanders in the recently concluded AFC Champions League campaign. Former Bengaluru FC midfielder Erik Paartalu feels Bheke is the best defender in India at this moment and he was full of praise for his former teammate. 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 and country.  

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Bheke’s successful stint with Bengaluru FC

Bheke’s best stint was with Bengaluru FC from 2017 to 2021 when he played a crucial role in the Blues’ success. In his first season at Sree Kanteerava stadium, the Blues finished the league phase on top of the ISL standings and they had the best defence in the league, conceding just 16 goals. Bheke was a pivotal figure in the defence as he played 19 games and finished the campaign with 53 tackles and 25 blocks. Although BFC lost the final against Chennaiyin FC, their performances throughout the season were very dominant. 

Bheke scores 117th-minute winner in the 2019 ISL final

The following season, BFC finally managed to clinch their maiden ISL trophy by defeating FC Goa in the final. Once again BFC qualified for the playoffs as the table-toppers and the Blues’ defence was pretty good as it was the fourth best in the league, having kept seven clean sheets and conceded just 22 goals. Bheke continued to be the most consistent performer in the team as he finished the season with 3 goals and 1 assist in 20 appearances and one of those goals proved to be the most important in the club’s history. The defender headed home a 117th-minute winner in the final to help his side lift the trophy.

Bheke scores historical goal in the AFC Champions League

After a successful four-year stint with the Blues, Bheke made the switch to his home team in 2021. Mumbai City FC, the 2021 ISL champions signed the defender on a two-year-deal. Although Bheke didn’t have a good debut ISL season with the Islanders as they failed to make the playoffs of, Des Buckingham’s side had an impressive AFC champions League campaign. The Islanders registered two wins, three defeats and a draw in their six group matches. In the 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 played all the six games in the competition and was one of the best performers for the Islanders. 

Bheke is a versatile defender

Despite a consistent performance in the ISL, Bheke made his international debut only in 2019 against Curacao in the Kings Cup in Thailand. He then went on to make 20 appearances for the Blue Tigers, featuring 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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