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Luisma's Incredible Journey To Indian Super League

Life has turned one full circle for Luis Manuel Villa Lopez - known more as Luisma - in football circles .

The Spaniard was a free agent when he initially signed a one-year contract with Bengaluru FC chance in the Indian Super League (ISL) last season.

Luis Manuel Villa Lopez

Though BFC went on won their maiden ISL title , Luisma's contract was not renewed as the Blues had to stick to the competition rules which dictated that each squad can have only eight foreign players, with only five of whom allowed on the pitch at any one time.

For the first time in his career, Luisma - who only turned 30 in August - is now without a club.

Should nothing come up, then he's considering taking entrance exams for the police force, but he hasn't given up hope of continuing his remarkable career just yet.

"It is strange," he admits to Online Betting site Betway, "because this is a new situation for me.

"It's frustrating, but I am keeping myself in shape for any moment that a new opportunity may arise.

"I'm very clear in my mind - I want to keep playing football, to have fun on the field of play, be in a dressing room with teammates. I miss everything that surrounds it but, above all, I want to carry on enjoying doing what I love most."

Given how many sliding-door moments have defined his story so far, you wouldn't bet against there being at least one more chapter to go.

Having plied his trade in La Liga as well as England second division, the ISL experience was a different-ball-game altogether for Luisma, who cherished it most.

"They're great players. They are very professional and work hard to improve and be able to help the team," Luisma spoke in awe of Indian players and ISL.

"Sunil Chhetri, for example, is an icon in his country who has scored more goals for the national team than anybody else. He is 35 years old but trains like he is 18.

"For the football players in their country, and especially for the youngest ones, that is something very important because it shows that, with ambition, sacrifice and work, you can achieve great things.

"Gurpreet [Singh Sandhu] was a goalkeeper in great shape.

"Udanta [Singh] was among the fastest players I've ever seen - that's why they called him 'Flash' - and he's only 23.

"On the pitch they are very hard-working and off it they are just normal guys, although some are funnier than others! They were of a good level and they keep improving."

Luisma has had a start-stop career so far. Having come through the ranks at his local club, Racing Santander, Luisma made his La Liga debut three weeks after his 18th birthday. In all, he made just three substitute appearances in three seasons - one of which came at the Camp Nou in a 0-4 defeat to Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.

After spending the next three seasons between four different clubs in the Segunda B, he arrived in England in July 2013 for a trial with Barnet, who were then managed by Champions League winner and former Dutch international Edgar Davids.

Luisma earned a contract and became a regular starter for the Conference side but, when Davids resigned and was replaced by Martin Allen in January, his minutes on the pitch began to dry up.

"At the end of the season, we had a meeting in Martin's office," Luisma recalls.

Luisma scored 13 goals that season as Barnet won the title by a single point but, rather than make the step up with them to the Football League, he chose to return to Spain.

The 30-year-old was candid while admitting that ISL is a study in contrast when compared to how the game is being played in England.

"It's a little different. The fifth division [in England] was much harder, with lots of physical contact, lots of force, long balls, 4-4-2.

"The ISL, on the other hand, is a little slower, with more control of the ball and players with great individual technique. They are very different leagues."

Despite the cultural differences, Luisma is of the opinion that football players should seek greener pastures abroad.

"Definitely. Lots of Spaniards end up in India or other countries.

"We have very good players in Spain, and more and better players are leaving.

"I really enjoyed having played abroad and it is something that every footballer should try and least once in their life."

Luisma places the ISL triumph with BFC on par with the title win for Barnet and recalled the final against FC Goa with gusto.

"For me it was just one more game.

"I started on the bench and came on in the second half, with the score at 0-0, thinking how I could do my best to help the team.

"I am used to controlling my emotions quite well. I only think about having fun, trying to do things well, enjoy the moment. I don't tend to get nervous because I don't think about it. I've spent plenty of years practising this sport."

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