Who next after Sunil Chhetri is the dilemma for Indian football

From Left: Vikram Partap Singh, Manvir Singh, Rahim Ali, Lallianzuala Chhangte. Source: Instagram

Throughout Sunil Chhetri’s illustrious career, his fans have celebrated every goal, milestone, and record, placing him alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the list of top international scorers. Yet, few have considered who next after Chhetri. As the legend is set lace up his boot for one last time against Kuwait on June 6, the entire football fraternity is grappling with this question. Filling Chhetri’s shoes will undoubtedly be a daunting task, but is there really any other option?

During the transition at the beginning of the last decade, football aficionados doubted whether Chhetri could succeed Baichung Bhutia. Sunil not only accomplished this with flying colors but also surpassed Bhutia’s international goals tally within three years of his retirement. Now, as Sunil prepares to pass the baton, it’s time to embrace the “Post Chhetri Era” and support the next generation of forwards who could take on his responsibilities.

Vikram Pratap Singh

Vikram has become the talk of the town after an extraordinary ISL season with Mumbai City FC, scoring 8 goals and providing 4 assists. Despite his promising start, the Punjab-born midfielder is yet to make a significant impact in his three appearances for the national team, having debuted against Australia in the AFC Asian Cup. Though he lacks a sturdy physique, his energetic presence and ability to find space inside the box, combined with his goal-scoring prowess, makes him a strong candidate for the No. 9 position once Sunil hangs up his boots on June 6.

Manvir Singh
One of the more seasoned campaigners in the team, Manvir brings a wealth of experience from both international and domestic levels. Although primarily playing on the flanks recently, the Mohun Bagan star began his career as a striker. His ball-holding abilities, finishing prowess, knack for finding spaces, and physical presence make him an excellent choice for the central forward position. Manvir has already shown his mettle by scoring a crucial goal in India’s FIFA World Cup qualifier opener against Kuwait. However, observing India’s training sessions, it seems likely that Manvir will continue to play on the flanks rather than in the center.

Manvir Singh
Manvir Singh (Image: AFC)

Rahim Ali

Rahim Ali emerged as one of Indian football’s promising talents after representing the national team in the U-17 World Cup. Despite his initial promise, the Chennaiyin FC forward has struggled with consistency. He was part of two SAFF Cup-winning campaigns and the team that lifted the Intercontinental Cup last year. Though his journey has had ups and downs, Rahim impressed in the recently concluded ISL, scoring 3 goals and providing 2 assists, earning him a spot in the 27-member squad against Kuwait. Coach Stimac has praised Rahim as a potential successor to Chhetri. Rahim has shown maturity and consistency in the Bhubaneswar camp and continued to impress in Kolkata. All he needs now is to seize his opportunities and cement his place in the team.

Lallianzuala Chhangte
Even former Indian football great Baichung Bhutia has hailed Chhangte as a potential replacement for Chhetri. However, Chhangte himself has clarified that his height is a concern for playing the number 9 position, preferring instead to operate from the flanks and provide assists.

Lallianzuala Chhangte
Lallianzuala Chhangte (Source: AIFF)

Since joining Mumbai City FC, Chhangte’s performance has only improved. In training, he appears determined and focused on achieving his goals. With his speed, composure, and flair, Chhangte is a gifted forward. Although he won’t be playing as a number 9 after Sunil’s retirement, he will undoubtedly have to shoulder additional responsibilities in the attack.

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