The players exhibited some fine displays throughout the calendar year.

The year 2022 is nearing its end. It was a pretty eventful year for Indian football and its footballers. The Indian national team qualified for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in compelling fashion. Indian football was banned by FIFA before it was overturned very quickly. The AIFF held elections after a long time and a new president was elected in Kalyan Chaubey. India played host to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in October.

At the domestic level, a lot of entertainment was on display for the fans. Jamshedpur FC won their first-ever silverware by topping the 2021-22 ISL season’s league stages and winning the shield. Hyderabad FC also marked their first title by winning the ISL Trophy. Gokulam Kerala became the third club to win the I-League twice in a row after East Bengal and Dempo SC. Amid all the entertainment and drama, a few Indian players made a bright impact and managed to stand out from the others.

These players maintained an impressive level of consistency throughout 2022 and climbed the proverbial ladder to gain a lot more Indian fans. So, here is Khel Now’s top 10 male Indian footballers of 2022.

10. Laxmikant Kattimani

Before the 2021-22 season, Laxmikatn Kattimani was widely laughed at for being an error-prone, unreliable goalkeeper. He made his doubters eat their words with his heroics in the ISL last season. Kattimani has redeemed himself in 2022, as he played a major role in Hyderabad’s ISL title win. He produced a number of memorable performances in goal for Manolo Marquez’s side, proving himself as a brilliant shot-stopper.

Laxmikant Kattimani against Mumbai City this season. (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Kattimani’s brightest moment came in the ISL final against Kerala Blasters, where he saved three penalties and helped his side win their first title. In nine appearances this season (ISL 2022-23), he has kept 6 clean sheets. The goalkeeper is currently ruled out of the season due to an injury but nonetheless, Kattimani’s performances have established him as one of India’s top goalkeepers and best performers of the year.

9. Gurkirat Singh

Indian football is struggling with a real lack of natural centre-forwards right now. Sunil Chhetri is edging towards the end of his career and not many players seem capable of stepping up to replace him. However, one player to have shown a lot of potential to be the major centre-forward India need is Gurkirat Singh. The 19-year-old centre-forward had a prolific year where he showed that he’s capable of playing at the top level at such a young age.

Gurkirat had been on fire for India’s U-20 side in 2022. He scored eight goals to help them win the SAFF U-20 Championship earlier this year, including four goals in the final against Bangladesh! This was also the first time a hat-trick was scored in the finale of the event.

Gurkirat is strong, quick and blessed with lethal finishing. He’s already one of the best Indian forwards around and is guaranteed to reach the top soon.

8. Lalchungnunga

Lalchungnunga has been one of Indian football’s biggest breakout stars of 2022. He started the year with newly-joined I-League side Sreenidi Deccan and had an impressive campaign with them. The youngster helped them maintain a pretty decent defensive record, conceding just 19 goals in 18 games and finishing third in the overall table. He was then roped in by East Bengal on loan for this season and has been a breath of fresh air for Stephen Constantine’s side.

The 21-year-old is strong, commanding and very composed at the back – boasting impressive aerial skills and game-reading ability. He’s definitely been one of their best players this season and among the better Indian defenders in the ISL. Lalchungnunga’s rise from the I-League to ISL is inspiring and his good form might just earn him an Indian national team call-up next year.

7. Hormipam Ruivah

Hormipam Ruivah up against Bengaluru FC’s Roy Krishna. (Courtesy: ISL Media)

The year of 2022 has been a good one for finding promising young defenders for Indian football. One of them is Kerala Blasters’ young Hormipam Ruivah, who played an inspired role in their impressive ISL campaign last time. Ruivah was one of ISL’s best Indian defenders last season, helping his side make the finals!

Read: Wanted to prove I can play in ISL, says Hormipam Ruivah: Full Interview

His pace, aggressiveness, distribution style and ability to win key duels have helped him become a vital cog of the Blasters’ side. Ruivah’s impressive work and consistency helped him earn a debut India cap earlier this year too. The 21-year-old has all the traits of being a full-fledged India international in the near future and has been one of the better Indian footballers of this year.

6. Sahal Abdul Samad

Sahal Abdul Samad has been able to prove many doubters wrong by enjoying a prolific year, both domestically and at the international stages too. The Kerala Blasters midfielder seems to have found his calling and has been able to tap into his strengths this year. He added more creativity and efficiency to his team’s attack, being a menacing attacking midfielder. Samad scored key goals against Mumbai City and in the first leg of the playoffs against Jamshedpur FC, helping the Blasters qualify for the ISL final – which he missed due to injury.

After the season was over, Sahal also impressed for India in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, scoring an important winner against Afghanistan and impressing off the bench for India. The 25-year-old has already had four goal involvements (two goals, two assists) for the Blasters this season, capping off a superb year.

5. Naorem Roshan Singh

In his first full season at Bengaluru FC, Naorem Roshan Singh needed little time to prove himself as a versatile defender. The 23-year-old had a dream season with Bengaluru FC in the 2021-22 campaign, recording seven assists and scoring a goal in the competition. Roshan also won the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award last, capping off a brilliant ISL 2021-22 campaign.

These displays helped him catch Igor Stimac’s attention and the youngster got a chance to don the national colours. Roshan performed really well for India in their friendly games before the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

This helped him solidify himself as a starter for the Blue Tigers in the qualifiers, as he impressed with some hard-working performances and being a major threat with his set-piece as well as crossing ability. While Bengaluru FC’s ISL 2022-23 season has been a mess so far, Roshan continues to impress and has definitely been one of the best Indian players of this year.

4. Bipin Singh

Bipin Singh has maintained an impressive consistency with Mumbai City over the last year and produced some great performances for them throughout this year too. In 21 ISL appearances this year, the 27-year-old has scored seven goals and provided three assists – maintaining an impressive goal involvement.

Read: Bipin Singh: From ATK’s bench to Mumbai City’s top-scorer

Bipin also held his own in the AFC Champions League campaign for Mumbai, troubling defenders with his clever movement and delivery from the wings. Moreover, he also became Mumbai City’s all-time top-scorer as well!

Bipin Singh (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Singh’s clinical nature in the final third and ability to make things happen help him maintain his position as one of India’s most prolific wingers. He was one of the more consistent and better Indian footballers of this year and will hope to get even better to regain his place in the Indian national team next year.

3. Mohammad Yasir

Mohammed Yasir has found his calling in Indian football and a prolific 2022 helped him soar to fame. After seeing his 2021 end in dull fashion due to an injury, Yasir bounced back impressively for Hyderabad FC in the second half of the 2021-22 season. He only scored one goal and provided two assists last season, but out of that two goal involvements came in the first leg of the ISL playoffs against ATK Mohun Bagan.

His heroics towards the end of a successful ISL season helped Yasir get into the Indian national team, where the footballer continued to impress. The 24-year-old was used as an impactful substitute in the pre-AFC Asian Cup qualifiers’ friendly games and did his job well.

Yasir has had a great 2022-23 season far, with three goals and four assists across all competitions. He’s among the ISL’s most creative, efficient wingers – with his crossing and unique finishing making him a menace.

2. Lallianzuala Chhangte

Lallianzuala Chhangte has excelled under Des Buckingham’s system at Mumbai City and seems to have found his calling at the club. After a disappointing period as a whole with the Marina Machans last season in the ISL, Chhangte produced some encouraging performances in the AFC Champions League. He featured in all of his side’s games and was a major threat with his incisiveness in the final third.

Chhangte has been the best Indian player of the 2022-23 season so far, with a whopping 11 goals and four assists across all competitions. That includes being the top-scorer of the 2022 Durand Cup with seven goals scored in the competition. Chhangte already has four goals and one assist (in 9 appearances) in the ISL this season, which includes some smashing strikes. The 25-year-old appears to be reaching the peak of his career and looks ready to be a major player for his club and country.

1. Anwar Ali

Anwar Ali (Courtesy: ISL Media)

The redemption arc of Anwar Ali has resulted in one of the most beautiful stories in Indian football history. His career looked to be dead in the water a few years ago when it was revealed that he’s suffering from a rare heart condition. But Ali fought against the odds to ensure that he wasn’t forced to retire. After consulting top doctors and finally getting the green light from the AIFF after a long battle, he was able to join ISL side FC Goa on January 1, 2022. His performance since has been exemplary. Ali has been one of the best and most consistent Indian footballers this year.

He made 10 appearances for Goa in the ISL last season, helping improve their defensive structure and putting in some brilliant performances. In fact, his first match for the Gian club saw him bag the Man of the Match award! His ISL heroics earned him a place in the Indian national side for the friendlies before the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. After impressing in those games, Ali played in every game in India’s impressive qualifiers campaign – in which he helped keep two clean sheets and even got himself a goal.

Till now in this season, for FC Goa, Ali has helped them keep four clean sheets and bullied some prominent foreign forwards. Ali’s stock is on the rise and after noticing how stable his development is going, the 22-year-old is showing qualities of being a future India captain.  

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