Indian football has produced plenty of legends over the years, but look no further than the mesmeric Sunil Chhetri if you want to know who the God of ISL is. 

India’s all-time leading goal-scorer in international football with 84 goals, Chhetri only trails Cristiano Ronaldo (118) and Lionel Messi (98) among international goals for active players.

So, it’s hardly a surprise that a player of his stature and calibre is the one who stands out as the God of ISL or Indian Super League despite the nation’s premier football division also housing some big names like Roberto Carlos, Allesandro Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka, Diego Forlan, Florent Malouda and Dimitar Berbatov ever since the league’s inception in 2014.

What sets Chhetri apart as the God of ISL is his unmatched consistency and hunger to succeed irrespective of all his past achievements and glories. Add to that, the fact that Chhetri missed the inaugural edition of the ISL since he was a part of Bengaluru FC in the I-League at the time, and his achievements in the ISL shines even brighter.

Season

Matches

Goals

Assists

Total goal contributions

Team’s finish

2015

11

7

1

8

Group stage

2016

6

0

1

1

4th in ISL

2017/18

21

14

2

16

Runners Up

2018/19

19

9

3

12

ISL winners

2019/20

17

9

0

9

3rd

2020/21

20

8

2

10

7th

2021/22

20

4

1

5

6th

2022/23*

7*

0

0

0

TBD

Lest we forget, he is the first player to net a hat-trick in the ISL while in the colours of Mumbai City FC in 2015 - his first season in the league. His second season in ISL saw him guide the Islanders to a fourth-place finish. 

However, after Bengaluru FC’s entry into the league in 2017-18, Chhetri’s ability with the ball at his feet took the league by storm. It was also his best season in the league in terms of goal contributions - 14 goals and two assists. 

The following campaign was his crowning glory as he lifted the coveted ISL trophy in what was a fitting tribute to one of the greatest players to have ever graced the league.

Sunil Chhetri’s goal record in the Indian Super League

Rank

Player

Goals

Apps

1

Bartholomew Ogbeche

59

85

2

Sunil Chhetri

52

126

3

Coro

48

57

4

Roy Krishna

37

72

5

Marcelinho

34

87

While the next few seasons haven’t been the most successful for Bengaluru FC and Chhetri, the Indian legend has ensured that he’s made his presence known with goals and assists in keeping with the rest of his career.

Now aged 38 and ageing like fine wine, Chhetri continues to defy logic and rub shoulders with players half his age. Not just a passenger, he continues to prove his weight in goals more often than not.

Sunil Chhetri’s appearance record in the Indian Super League

Rank

Player

Appearances

1

Mandar Rao Dessai

134

2

Narayan Das

130

3

Lenny Rodrigues

132

4

Pritam Kotal

131

5

Harmanjot Khabra

126

6

Amrinder Singh

130

7

Sunil Chhetri

126

8

Rahul Bheke

123

9

Sandesh Jhingan

119

10

Tiri

110

When he finally does decide to hang up his boots, Chhetri can be safe in the knowledge that his legacy in Indian football is one that can’t be matched, well at least not in the near future. After all, he’s the God of ISL for a reason and the fact that he’s in the top 10 for most ISL appearances and goals is a testament to that.

With 52 goals in the ISL, he is second on the league’s all-time top-scorers, behind only Bartholomew Ogbeche. Furthermore, he’s currently seventh on the list of the top appearance makers in the league with 126 outings.

Labelled a captain, leader and legend by fans, Chhetri represents so much more. The face of Indian football for well over a decade, a humble superstar, a team player and a game-changer are just a few things to go by. 

That said, when all is said and done as Chhetri sits back and reflects on a career unmatched in Indian football, there will be several moments and achievements that come to surface. Him being the God of ISL will definitely be up there on the list of his constantly burgeoning accolades - both tangible and intangible.

 

Photo credits: Alamy