In the space of two years, life has come a full circle for defender Rino Anto. The 27-year-old right back from Kerala sparked an all-out bidding war between the Ranbir Kapoor co-owned Mumbai City FC and FC Goa on Friday before Atletico de Kolkata opportunistically swooped in for his signature for a startling R90 lakh - five times more than his base price of Rs 17.50 lakh.

Almost unbelievably, in 2013, the defender, who was playing for a second division I-League side Quartz, was struggling to make ends meet after not being paid his salary regularly.

Atletico de Kolkata’s new recruits Rino Anto (right) and Arata Izumi at yesterday’s post-auction press conference. Pic/Atul Kamble

"I wasn’t getting paid so I quit the club. I was keen to play for an I-League club and then Pradyum Reddy (assistant coach of I-League side Bengaluru FC) asked me to come play for them. I joined them and that changed everything," said the former Tata Football Academy ward.

The intense pace of the bidding between the franchises to sign him yesterday left expert auctioneer Charlie Ross breathless and the Kerala footballer speechless. "I am so excited. I don’t know what to do," Anto said while he was being presented the Kolkata jersey by the owners on Friday.

Having had some time to gather his thoughts and compose himself, Anto later said: "I never expected anything (from today’s auction). In the draft, the price is fixed. But in an auction, anything can happen. I called my parents to tell them about the price. They were very happy."

Anto also revealed that it took some encouraging words from India’s star striker Sunil Chhetri and a game of football to calm his nerves a day before the auction. "Chhetri bhai told us not to worry. He, Eugeneson (Lyngdoh), Keegan (Pereira) and I went for a fun game of five-a-side football with some other friends on Wednesday and Thursday. Those moments helped us relax."