The skipper is currently third behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among the active international goal-scorers.

National team captain Sunil Chhetri has been named the AIFF Men’s Footballer of the Year for the seventh time, after being nominated by national team head coach Igor Stimac.

International contributions

Sunil Chhetri last won the award in 2018-19. He was nominated after topping the international scoring charts with five goals and winning the Player of the Tournament in the SAFF Cup. He continued his good form in the 3rd round of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers as well. Chhetri led from the front, scoring four goals in three games and helped India qualify from Group D. Chhetri’s leadership and discipline continuously inspires the younger generation. His contributions helped India qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the nation’s fifth appearance in the continental tournament.

Aged 38, the Bengaluru FC forward is still fit as a fiddle. Chhetri recently equalled Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas’ tally of 84 international goals. He achieved the same after scoring the second goal in India’s final AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifying third-round game against Hong Hong at the Salt Lake Stadium.

After turning 30, the Indian captain has scored 41 goals in 54 international appearances. In the last five years, his goals per game ratio adds upto 32 goals in 37 matches. He has scored at an average of 86.49% for the Blue Tigers, an attestation to his fitness and goal-scoring hunger.

Domestic contributions

The previous ISL season was forgettable for the Indian legend. After an 11-game barren run, Chhetri broke the rut and scored his 48th ISL goal in a 1-1 draw against FC Goa. With this, he equalled Ferran Corominas’ ISL goalscoring tally. Chhetri currently stands second in the all-time ISL goal-scorers list, two goals behind Bartholomew Ogbeche.

With the high standards he has set for himself, the No. 11 had an underwhelming season last term. He often found himself on the bench as Marco Pezzaiouli preferred Prince Ibara and Cleiton Silva in the attacking positions. He managed just four goals and one assist from 20 appearances.

Bengaluru FC won just two of their first 10 games, but rode on Chhetri’s rediscovered form to win six out of the final ten. Despite this, the former ISL champions failed to make the final four for the second straight season.

After some intensive introspection and transfer market business, Bengaluru FC have added the likes of Roy Krishna and Faisal Ali. This will shore up their attacking ammunition for what promises to be a cracking 2022-23 ISL season. Chhetri remains the only long-standing constant and will look to lead the club from the front yet again.

Monopoly over individual honours

The talisman wins the award for a record seventh time, after winning it in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, and 2018-19. He was first nominated for the award in 2007, a testament to his longevity and performance at the highest level.

Sunil Chhetri currently sits third after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the list of highest goal scorers among active international football players and stands sixth on the all-time leader-board. The Bengaluru FC captain has been unstoppable in international fixtures over the years, scoring 84 goals in 129 appearances.

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