The former Sporting CP reserves coach was pleased with the Indian ace’s performance in the AFC Asian Cup.
It is simply amazing to know that even at the age of 34, Sunil Chhetri is being scouted by the foreign coaches who wish to watch him play for their team. The Bengaluru FC and Indian national team skipper played a major role for the Blue Tigers during their AFC Asian Cup campaign, a few weeks ago.
India were knocked out from the tournament in the very group stages itself, but Chhetri didn’t cease to impress the coaches from other countries, especially Oceano da Cruz, the assistant coach of Iran. Working under head coach Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese had a special responsibility of scouting talents from other countries that were a part of Iranians’ group.
However, it was another group, formed by India and UAE that particularly caught the attention of the 56-year-old. He closely followed all the games that India played and was pleased with Chhetri’s performance. Interestingly, Oceano has prior experience of coaching the prolific striker during his days at Sporting Clube de Portugal and yet again he was mesmerised by the player’s qualities. “I saw a much more mature player, still with great ability and quality. His leadership skills were there for all to see.”
As he went on to speak with The Times of India, Oceano revealed his memories from Portugal watching Chhetri, then 27-year-old, train under him.
“He was on par with the players. He trained every day and competed for a starting position like all others. One issue that he faced was that he didn’t play often enough, as he deserved, in the B (reserves) team.”
“The B team policy was to give playing time to younger players,” said Oceano as he offered his sympathies to Chhetri for the failed stint in Europe. “I always felt, and still believe, that Sunil has the ability and character to compete in the top-tier of Portuguese league or elsewhere. As with all players, they need the right opportunities.”
Although it might seem a little odd to see any Portuguese club signing Sunil Chhetri at this stage, Oceano’s claims of the talismanic striker’s abilities cannot be denied. Nevertheless, hearing his former coach’s praise will only boost Chhetri’s confidence and it would be a delight to watch him excel for the remainder of the season in the Indian Super League. Who knows, one cannot simply deny the possibility of a Portuguese top-tier club snapping him up next season.