India’s football history is long and detailed because it was at one time the national sport.
The British soldiers introduced the sport to the Indians in the mid-19th century (which is the same case as that of cricket).
However, today, the world’s most popular sport is hardly cared for in India.
Only in some states like West Bengal, Goa, Kerala, and North-East India, football is as popular as or more popular than cricket.
The Indian Super League (ISL), a football league that has attracted substantial corporate funding and led to significant infrastructure improvements, gives us some hope.
Grassroots-level measures should promote world-class schools and colleges to encourage more children to start a football career.
Potential soccer stars find their idols in legends like Bhaichung Bhutia, I. M Vijayan, Gostha Pal, etc.
But if you are curious to know about current football stars, based on goal statistics, here are the top 10 best Indian football players:
10. Manvir Singh
Manvir Singh is an Indian professional footballer who plays as a forward for the Indian Super League club Mohun Bagan SG and the Indian national team.
Manvir made his debut for the India national team in 2017 and has since scored seven goals in 37 matches.
He was part of the India team that won the 2021 SAFF Championship, scoring three goals in the tournament.
He also scored a stunning goal against China in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, earning praise from fans and pundits.
Manvir Singh is considered one of the best Indian footballers because of his pace, power, finishing, and versatility.
He can play as a center-forward, a winger, or a midfielder, and has shown his ability to adapt to different systems and roles.
9. Lallianzuala Chhangte
Lallianzuala Chhangte is an Indian professional footballer who plays as a forward or winger for Mumbai City FC and the India national team.
Chhangte made his debut for the India national team in 2015 and has since scored seven goals in 32 matches. He is the youngest Indian player to score a brace for the national team, which he achieved against Nepal in the 2015 SAFF Championship.
He also won the 2021 SAFF Championship with India, scoring three goals in the tournament.
Chhangte’s stellar performances have earned him recognition, and he was named the AIFF Men’s Footballer of the Year for 2022-23, showcasing his impact on the field.
He has been a key player for both the national team and his club, with impressive statistics, including being the highest scorer among Indians in the Indian Super League 2022-23 season, with 10 goals and six assists in 22 appearances.
Chhangte’s consistency, skill, and goal-scoring ability have solidified his reputation as one of the best footballers in India.
8. Bipin Singh Thounaojam
Bipin Singh Thounaojam is an Indian professional footballer who plays as a winger for Mumbai City FC and the India national team.
Bipin Singh’s notable achievements include becoming the all-time joint top goalscorer for Mumbai City FC alongside Modou Sougou and signing a new four-year contract with the club in 2021, showcasing his value and contribution to the team.
He has made significant achievements in international football, including his performance in the Indian Super League and for the national team.
He is the youngest Indian player to score a brace for the national team, which he achieved against Nepal in the 2015 SAFF Championship. He also won the 2021 SAFF Championship with India, scoring three goals in the tournament.
Bipin Singh’s consistent performance and ability to deliver crucial goals have solidified his reputation as one of the best Indian footballers, and he continues to be a key player for both his club and the national team.
7. Udanta Singh Kumam
Udanta Singh has been considered one of the best due to his impressive performances in domestic and international football for a long time.
It’s because of his consistent contributions to the Indian national team and his success with Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League.
Udanta made his debut for the India national team in 2016 and has since scored two goals in 47 matches. He is the youngest Indian player to score a brace for the national team, which he achieved against Nepal in the 2015 SAFF Championship. He also won the 2021 and 2023 SAFF Championship with India, scoring three goals in each tournament.
Despite facing some challenges, Udanta Singh has remained a key player for both his club and the national team, showcasing his talent and dedication to the sport.
6. Anirudh Thapa
Anirudh Thapa made his debut for the India national team in 2017 and has since scored four goals in 53 matches. He is the youngest Indian player to score a brace for the national team, which he achieved against Nepal in the 2015 SAFF Championship. He also won the 2021 and 2023 SAFF Championship with India, scoring three goals in each tournament.
Thapa’s notable contributions to Indian football include his important role in the Indian national team’s victories in the Tri-Nation Series in 2017 and 2023, along with the Intercontinental Cup in 2018 and 2023.
He can play as a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box midfielder, or an attacking midfielder, and has shown his ability to dictate the tempo and create chances for his team
5. Rowllin Borges
Borges is currently a defensive midfielder in the Indian National Football Team and the ISL for Mumbai City FC.
He made his debut in 2011 when he signed up for the Sporting Clube de Goa against Prayag United in the I-League and later joined the East Bengal Club in 2016.
At a football match in Goa, the coach of the Indian National Team, Stephen Constantine.
The Coach was too impressed that he decided to include Borges in the Indian national team.
His first iconic goal was in the SAFF Suzuki Cup 2015 against Nepal at Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram, followed by the 2017 AFC Asian Cup qualification.
Borges had an active role in 12 out of 14 games for the Northeast United FC from 2016 to 19.
Rowlin Borges is also declared the AIFF Emerging Player 2016.
4. Pritam Kotal
Born in a small West Bengal city, Kotal had a distinct fascination for football from childhood, as his family actively played the sport.
Pritam Kotal currently plays as a defender for club ATK, the Indian national team, and is one of the most famous Indian football players.
Young Kotal started his international career while playing for the U-19 and then signed up for the I-League of AIFF in 2011.
Kotal signed up for Mohun Bagan in 2013, which was, for him, was like a dream come true.
He also played for Pune FC against Mumbai city during the year 2014.
Kotal played a significant role in the U-23 Indian team in the 2014-Asian Games in South Korea and took part in the 2016 AFC U-23 championship qualifiers held in Bangladesh.
After his club’s impeccable performance, Kotal played the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Nepal, which was a remarkable win for team India.
3. Sandesh Jhingan
Sandesh used to play as a skipper for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League. He was granted the ‘ISL Emerging Player of the League’ in the first season in 2014.
The professional football league, ISL, proved to be a platform for him to showcase his soccer talent.
He received his international break for the Indian football team against the UAE in 2014.
All India Football Federation appointed him the Captain of The Indian National Team in 2017.
Though he left Kerala, he gained a large fanbase, particularly among South Indian people.
Currently, he holds the record for the number of appearances for Kerala Blasters and a high Indian football ranking.
He continued the captaincy for the Blasters 2018-19 season after getting ruled out for the entire season because of an ACL injury.
He was an essential part of the Indian team for two FIFA world cup qualifier games against Qatar and Oman.
2. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu currently plays as the Goalkeeper for Bengaluru FC in Indian Super League.
He started his career in 2010 by signing up for the East Bengal team.
He made his international debut when he represented India at the U-19 and U-23 levels.
Sandhu’s senior team debut resulted in a 1-1 draw against Turkmenistan in 2011.
This 31-year-old was declared the Indian Football Captain in 2016 (a monumental achievement) during the match against Puerto Rico.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is perhaps the first Indian to play in the UEFA Europa League.
The goalkeeper gave probably the best performance of his life against Qatar by pulling off 11 mind-blowing saves to keep the game scoreless.
Unquestionably, he won the Man of the Match!
He was honored with several awards, including IFA Shield, Federation Cup during the year 2012, Calcutta Football League for four consecutive years, Arjuna Award in 2019, etc.
1. Sunil Chhetri
Sunil Chhetri is the best football player in India in 2023, playing the center-forward position as a striker or winger.
His contribution to the Football world is impeccable.
Sunil Chhetri was born in 1984 and had decent exposure to Football since childhood because his parents were actively engaged in the sport.
His football career started at the mere age of 17 when he signed up for Mohun Bagan.
He represented India in 115 international events and still aspires to play more.
He was perhaps one of the best players during the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup during his early competitive career.
Chetri pushed the Indian team to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in 27 years.
He played a significant role in assisting his nation in winning 2007, 2009, and 2012 Nehru Cups alongside the 2011 SAFF Championship.
He was likewise awarded the title of ‘Player of the Year’ by the All India Football Federation board in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, and 2018-19.
Chhetri is the current Captain of the Indian Football Team and the Captain of the Bengaluru FC.
These top 10 best Indian football players have made a significant impact on the sport both nationally and internationally.
They have inspired many young football enthusiasts in India with their exceptional skills and determination.
These footballers have brought pride and recognition to Indian football on a global stage, and we can expect many more talents to emerge.