From Sunil Chhetri to Sandesh Jhingan: Top 10 Indians to Watch Out for in ISL 2020-21
Sandesh Jhingan and Sunil Chhetri (Photo Credit: Twitter)
The Indian Super League (ISL) is the top league of the country and a stage for the best in the land to showcase their skills.
With only 4 foreigners at a time on the field of play for any team, Indian talent is a sought after talent in the ISL.
Here are the 10 top Indians to watch in ISL 2020-21:
Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Captain of the Indian national team as well as Bengaluru FC, 36-year-old Sunil Chhetri will again lead the charge for BFC in the 2020-21 season.
Having played 74 matches and scoring 36 goals as well as providing 7 assists, Sunil Chhetri has been one of the most impactful players in the Indian Super League. In fact, Chhetri is the highest scorer amongst Indians in the league’s history.
Last season, Chettri propelled Bengaluru FC to the play-off semi-finals, after finishing 2nd on points table, with 9 goals and assists.
This year too, the West Block Blues will hope that 'Captain, Leader, Legend' will carry the team to the title.
Sandesh Jhingan (ATK Mohun Bagan)
ATK Mohun Bagan's marquee signing ahead of the 2020-21 season, Sandesh Jhingan, might prove to be the missing ingredient in defence as the club pose a renewed challenge on the ISL title.
Even though Jhingan did not play last season with injury, he mutually terminated his contract with Kerala Blasters FC and joined the 'Green and Maroon' on a five-year contract. In 76 ISL games so far, the commanding centre-back has 194 tackles, 93 interceptions, 502 clearances as well as 97 blocks to his name.
The 'Emerging Player' of the first-ever ISL season will hope a change of team will help him get his hands on the trophy after tailing off in the past few seasons.
Jeje Lalpekhlua (East Bengal FC)
Jeje Lalpekhlua has won the ISL with Chennaiyin FC, having been with the club since 2014, and is their leading goal scorer.
The Mizo Sniper was also Chennaiyin's main marksman as they lifted their second championship in the 2017-18 campaign.
Jeje missed many matches in the subsequent season with several injuries as he scored only one goal in 16 matches and then missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season.
He has scored 23 goals and 7 assists in 69 ISL matches so far and SC East Bengal fans will hope Jeje can lace up his scoring boots once again for the 2020-21 season.
Sahal Abdul Samad (Kerala Blasters FC)
Sahal Abdul Samad has been a pride and shining light for Kerala Blasters FC after joining the ISL side in 2017.
The mid-field maestro was named 'Emerging Player' in the 2019-19 season after showing glimpses of his latent the campaign prior.
Last season, Sahal did not receive as much game time, as he appeared in all 18 matches for Kerala Blasters FC, but mostly from the bench. He has so far scored just one goal and provided two assists in 37 appearances in the history of the tournament. This season under new boss Kibu Vicuna, Sahal will be hopeful to make much more of an impact and crucially more game time to showcase his skills.
Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC)
Anirudh Thapa made his debut in the ISL in 2016 for Chennaiyin FC and went onto play 16 games during Chennaiyin FC's title-winning 2017-18 campaign, contributing two goals and an assist.
In fact, Thapa has 3 goals and 9 assists to his name from 55 games in the history of the tournament. In the 2018-19 season, despite Chennaiyin FC’s disappointing campaign, Thapa played regularly and established himself as one of the team’s most influential players.
A strong 2019-20 season saw Thapa make 20 appearances, scoring one goal, while assisting another six.
The maverick midfielder will hope to take the reins of CFC and lead them to their third ISL title.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Jamshedpur FC)
Amarjit Singh Kiyam may just be starting off his ISL journey but the captain of the India U-17 team in the FIFA U-17 World Cup is making giant strides in his professional career in Indian football.
The 19-year-old from Manipur, after the World Cup in 2017, he represented the Indian Arrows in I-League for the 2017-18 season. A productive campaign earned him a contract with Jamshedpur FC but the youngster was sent back to Arrows on loan, where he shined in mid-field yet again with his hard-working ethic and tenacity.
In his debut ISL season in 2019-20, Amarjit made eight appearances as he established himself as a dependable metronome in the middle of the park and will be hoping to continue impressing for Jamshedpur this season.
Ishan Pandita (FC Goa)
22-year-old Ishan Pandita will have a lot of expectations as he dons the FC Goa jersey to play in his debut ISL season.
Ishan Pandita, who hails from Jammu and Kashmir, was born in New Delhi before moving to the Philippines and then Bangalore.
Ishan moved to Spain in 2014 and spent his initial days in the youth set up of UD Almería, before moving to CD Leganes in 2016 as he became the first Indian to sign a professional contract with a club in La Liga.
He played for their U-19 side in the top level of the Spanish system for youth players and then moved to Nastic de Tarragona for a stint in their U23 side before signing for Lorca FC.
Ishan will be hoping to bang in the goal for the 'Gaurs' in the Indian Super League.
Mandar Rao Dessai (Mumbai City FC)
Mandar Rao Dessai came up through Dempo SC’s youth system and made his name playing for FC Goa in the ISL. The versatile winger was a big part of Brazilian head coach Zico's team during the inaugural season and rose to stardom in the 2015 campaign, with some stunning performances during the Gaurs' run to the final.
With Sergio Lobera's arrival in 2017-18, Mandar saw his role transform in the side as he was deployed more as a full back. He adapted quickly and excelled in his new position.
Mandar even captained the Gaurs as FCG reached the ISL final in the 2018-19 season and helped them win the inaugural ISL League Winner’s Shield last season.
But after six seasons and 97 appearances for FC Goa, Mandar followed Lobera to Mumbai City FC and will hope that he continues his growth and success in the upcoming season.
Shubham Sarangi (Odisha FC)
Shubham Sarangi has been the face and back-bone of the Odisha FC and the upcoming season poses to be an important season for the player.
After starting out his playing career in Delhi, Sarangi impressed at the Nationals in Kalyani and was promptly picked up by the AIFF Elite Academy. He attended the preparatory camp before the U-17 FIFA World Cup but couldn’t make the cut eventually.
Sarangi was picked up by Delhi Dynamos FC for 2018-19 ISL season and made nine appearances and went on to make 17 appearances last season.
The 20-year-old defender has made 98 tackles, 31 interceptions, 105 clearances and 32 blocks in 26 matches so far in ISL and will hope to turn his team's fortunes this campaign.
Nikhil Poojary (Hyderabad FC)
Nikhil Poojary's time may just be here and the upcoming season will be a test for the 25-year-old entering his prime years to lead his team Hyderabad FC to Indian Super League glory.
He started his professional career with East Bengal in 2015 and after some good performances with the Red and Gold brigade, he joined FC Pune City ahead of ISL 2018-19 season. Poojary made nine appearances and scored his only ISL goal.
Last season, Poojary established himself as a mainstay in Hyderabad team as he was deployed in a much deeper role during the 2019-20 season as he played all 18 matches.