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Top five Indian football players (men) who signed for foreign clubs

Published at :March 27, 2024 at 8:15 PM
Modified at :March 27, 2024 at 8:15 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Samannay Sen


Indian football players have significantly gained some experience after joining foreign clubs.

Indian football, while still growing, has witnessed a surge in recent years. This growth includes a handful of brave pioneers who ventured beyond familiar shores to test their skills in foreign leagues. These players, facing new cultures and playing styles, not only carved a path for themselves but also inspired a generation of aspiring footballers.

For decades, the roar of the crowd echoed across the traditional Indian football grounds – a testament to the raw talent and unwavering passion of the nation’s players. But the allure of the beautiful game often extended beyond familiar borders. A select few, driven by an insatiable hunger for growth and a burning desire to test their mettle against the best, dared to venture into uncharted territory – the international footballing scene.

This article dives into the stories of the top five Indian (men’s) footballers who dared to dream and play abroad.

5. Romeo Fernandes

Romeo Fernandes, a skillful winger known for his dribbling and passing ability, was a mainstay in the Indian Super League (ISL). In 2017, he signed for Brazilian club Atlético Paranaense, a significant achievement for an Indian player.

While his playing time in Brazil was limited, the experience exposed him to a unique tactical approach and a highly technical style of play. Fernandes’ exposure to Brazilian football further enhanced his creativity and vision, making him a valuable asset for the Indian clubs he later played for.

4. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Top five Indian football players (men) who signed for foreign clubs.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in action. (Image Source: ISL)

Nicknamed the “Indian Wall”, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is a force to be reckoned with between the posts. Known for his agility, reflexes, and commanding presence, Sandhu’s rise to prominence coincided with the Indian Super League’s inception. On 15 August 2014, he made another significant leap, signing for Norwegian club Stabæk.

While playing in the Europa League, the experience was invaluable. Sandhu trained in a professional European environment, honed his shot-stopping skills, and returned a more confident goalkeeper ready to anchor the Indian national team’s defense.

3. Subrata Pal

Top five Indian football players (men) who signed for foreign clubs.
Subrata Pal in the practice session. (Image Source: Redbull)

The Indian Spiderman, known for his agility and reflexes, Subrata Pal was one of India’s most decorated goalkeepers. In 2014 he made another significant stride by signing for Danish club FC Vestsjaelland. While he primarily featured in their reserve team, the move allowed him to gain invaluable experience training in a professional European environment.

Pal’s experience in Denmark honed his goalkeeping skills and enhanced his decision-making, adding another dimension to his impressive abilities.

2. Bhaichung Bhutia

Bhaichung Bhutia is a legend in Indian football history. Renowned for his pace, technique, and leadership, he captained the national team for a record 10 years. In 1999, Bhutia shattered barriers by signing for English club Bury F.C.

Though his stint in England was brief, it opened doors for other Indian players to explore opportunities abroad. Bhaichung also played for Malaysian clubs Perak F.C. and Selangor MK Land. Bhutia’s journey proved that Indian footballers could compete globally, inspiring a generation of young players to dream big.

1. Sunil Chhetri

Top five Indian football players (men) who signed for foreign clubs.
Sunil Chhetri in ISL (Image Source: ISL)

Sunil Chhetri, arguably the greatest Indian footballer of all time, needs little introduction. He holds the record for most international goals for a male player, and his trophy cabinet is adorned with numerous domestic titles. But Chhetri’s ambition extended beyond India. In 2010, he signed for Major League Soccer (MLS) side Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City).

Though his time there was short-lived due to limited playing time, it marked a landmark moment for Indian football. Chhetri’s experience in the United States honed his skills and solidified his reputation as a player with the potential to excel at the highest level. Along with that Chhetri played for renowned club Sporting CP B in Portugal.

Notable mention

Bijay Chhetri

Top five Indian football players (men) who signed for foreign clubs.
Bijay Chhetri in Chennaiyin FC training. (Image Source: Chennaiyin FC media)

Indian rising star Bijay Chhetri of Chennaiyin FC has signed for Colon Futbol Club, Uruguay. Chhetri has been a young talent in ISL for Chennaiyin and has expanded his steps to foreign football with this move. Colon Futbol Club is a 116-year-old professional football club based in Montevideo and is currently competing in the second division of Uruguay.

The 22-year-old defender from Manipur had been training and honing his skills under the expert coaches of Chennaiyin FC. Chhetri’s move to Uruguay paves the door for future Indian stars to showcase their talents on foreign soil.

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