Bengaluru-based teenager Ishan Pandita has inked a one-year deal with international club Deportivo Leganes, making him the first Indian to get a professional contract from a La Liga club.
Leganes, a club located on the outskirts of Madrid, got promotion to Spain's top division football this season. They are currently placed 11th in the league table.
Pandita has been handed the No.50 jersey on Tuesday. He has joined the first team but will start by playing for the junior side -- Leganes B -- due to his limited exposure and tender age.
Leganes B ply their trade in the Tercera Division, Spain's fourth division.
"I haven't seen him play as he has never played in India. Nonetheless I would take this opportunity to congratulate him for his achievement. Bagging a contract with a La Liga team is no mean feat," former Indian striker Baichung Bhutia told IANS over phone on Wednesday.
"I would like the national coach (Stephen Constantine) to have a look at him. We would love players with international experience to play for the country. He can probably fit in the India U-20 team in the future," Bhutia, who is also All India Football Federation's (AIFF) advisor, said.
The AIFF has long expressed its desire to host the U-20 World Cup, and it is learnt President Praful Patel also sought FIFA President Gianni Infantino's help in the matter when the world football governing body's chief visited Goa recently to launch the U-17 World Cup's logo.
"Heartiest congratulations to Ishan Pandita, first Indian to sign for Spanish @LaLiga Aclub. A landmark achievement at such a young age," Patel tweeted on Wednesday.
AIFF Senior Vice-President Subrata Dutta said this will inspire Indian clubs to produce more such players who can play in Europe.
"This is a fantastic achievement, to be playing in the Spanish League. This is a proud moment for us. I hope Indian clubs will produce more such talents who can go on to play in Europe and improve the standard of Indian football," Dutta told IANS.
Besides Leganes, Getafe had also shown interest in signing the Indian striker who has Kashmiri roots. But Getafe's relegation from the top division after last season allowed Pandita to choose Leganes as his destination.
Late last year, Pandita had an eight-month spell with the junior side of Almeria in the Spanish second division.
But because he wasn't of 18 years then, he couldn't sign a professional contract.
However, his early days began with Alcobendas CF, currently in Tercera Division.
(With inputs from IANS)