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5 players who could dethrone Sunil Chhetri as India’s best footballer this year

In the last eight years, Sunil Chhetri has won the AIFF Indian Player of the Year award five times but this time, we might see a new winner.

5 players who could dethrone Sunil Chhetri as India’s best footballer this year


Published: 26 March 2020 5:57 AM GMT

As the Indian football seasons comes to a premature halt due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has invited votes for the country’s player of the year from the head coaches of all Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League clubs.

In the last eight years, Sunil Chhetri has won the award five times. The national team captain has been one of the most consistent performers over the last few years and this season has been no exception.

Although Chhetri fell short of living up to the high standards that he has set for himself, the Bengaluru FC man did score nine goals in 17 matches and is one of the favourites to win the Player of the Year. However, a few other Indians have also impressed this season, some maybe more than Chhetri.

Here we take a look at five players who could pip Chhetri:

#5 Anirudh Thapa

Anirudh Thapa (Source: ISL)

Nominated in the Emerging Player Category, Chennaiyin FC midfielder Anirudh Thapa might just go on to win the Player of the Year award due to his assuring performances through the season.

After a poor start to the season, once Owen Coyle came onboard, the Marina Machans turned around their fortune and Thapa was pretty much at the heart of it. Acting as the linchpin in midfield, he controlled the games.

His best, though, came in the semifinal first leg clash against league toppers FC Goa. In all, the 22-year-old scored once and assisted five times, thereby showing just how much he has matured since coming to fore.

#4 Pritam Kotal

kotal Pritam Kotal (Source: ISL)

Pritam Kotal had to adapt to a new position in central defence as Antonio Habas resorted to a three-man backline with Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj as the two wing backs. But the former Delhi Dynamos man never complained.

He took some time to settle down but once he did, Pritam hardly looked in any discomfort. In fact, when Agustin Iniguez’s season was cut short, the 26-year-old defender took the onus to lead from the back, something that brought out the best in him.

Through the season, Pritam received only three bookings, a stat which is a testament to his discipline, and yet he was never afraid to go into tackles (71). His involvement in set-pieces was also crucial and he even managed to score one goal.

#3 Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Gurpreet Singh Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Source: ISL)

Bengaluru FC custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was in superb form between the sticks through the season, both for club and country.

In the ISL, he conceded the least number of goals (14) and earned as many as 11 clean sheets. Among the goalkeepers in the league, with a stunning save percentage of 77.77, he was clearly the best performer by miles.

For the national team as well Gurpreet shone. In fact, he was the one person who kept Asian champions Qatar at bay in the famous 0-0 draw in Doha in the World Cup Qualifiers 2022.

If he does win the award, Gurpreet will become the first keeper since Subrata Paul to do it and he will be deserving of it too.

#2 Prabir Das

Prabir Das Prabir Das (Source: ISL)

Making a comeback after a year away from football due to a ligament injury, Prabir Das was a live wire on the right flank for eventual ISL champions, ATK FC.

He earned Anotnio Habas’ trust and repaid in full with his performances through the season, contributing in attack as well as defence. Prabir showed no signs of injuries and was almost like a workhorse. In fact, he was one of the fastest players on the pitch in the ISL.

The 26-year-old marauded the right wing, made it his own as he swept up and down the field, notching up assists and tackles on the way. A true contender for the Player of the Year award, Prabir registered five assists while also managing to make 64 successful tackles in 20 appearances.

#1 Brandon Fernandes

Brandon Fernandes Brandon Fernandes (Source: ISL)

Perhaps, the most deserving candidate, FC Goa attacking midfielder Brandon Fernandes was a revelation this season. From his performances with the national team to his instrumental role in the Gaurs’ successful campaign, Brandon impressed all and sundry.

The Goan star provided three assists in five matches for the national team at the World Cup Qualifiers 2022. Known for his inch-perfect deliveries from set-pieces, Brandon was at his best at the most crucial points.

For FC Goa, he has been equally instrumental, scoring twice and notching up seven assists in his 17 appearances. He provided stability, created chances and whenever he was not there, Brandon’s absence was heavily felt by Goa.

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