India’s football history is long and detailed because it was at one time the national sport.
Similar to cricket, it was British soldiers who introduced the sport to Indians in the mid-19th century.
Today, the beautiful game is hardly cared for in India, despite being the world’s most popular sport.
However, there are states like West Bengal, Goa, Kerala, and North-East India; football is equal to or, if not, more popular than cricket.
With football leagues such as the Indian Super League (ISL), which has attracted substantial corporate funding and led to significant infrastructure improvements, we can only hope for the best.
Drastic measures at the grassroots level 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. Robin Singh
Robin Singh is one of India’s dedicated and brightest young talents, currently playing for Real Kashmir FC.
Before entering the sport, this powerful striker initially had different plans for his future but chose football since it was his family sport.
Even today, Robin claims that his biggest motivation is his family!
He started his journey with East Bengal in the I-League. He had an outstanding score rate in the Calcutta Football League 2010 while being in the East Bengal club.
He was also a part of the Tata Football Academy. He propelled them in winning several titles (like the Jubliee Cup).
Before joining Real Kashmir FC, he played for various clubs like Bengaluru FC, FC Goa, Atletico de Kolkata, etc.
He has represented India on various International levels like U-16, U-23, and India Senior level and made his debut at the U-23 level against Myanmar in the 2012 Olympic qualifiers.
Robin made his senior debut in the 2012 Nehru Cup was against the Maldives Team.
His first international goal was against Chinese Taipei in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, followed by the winning goal against Guam in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
9. Francis Fernandes
Francis Fernandes’s passion for football started from his school days.
He initially started playing for his school. Later in college days, he was selected for the Vasco U19 after the trials.
Currently, Francis primarily plays as a winger for the Indian club Dempo S.C.
After two victorious seasons with the Vasco S.C Senior team, he signed up for Salgaocar in 2006.
He has been an active and vital player in the Indian football team since 2011, and his first international goal was against Palestine on 6th October 2014.
Consecutively, this talented Indian football player then went on to play for Delhi Dynamos during the year 2014-16.
Followed by Pune city FC during the year 2016 and Chennaiyin FC during the year 2017-19.
Fernandes’s role in the 2019 ISL Chennaiyin FC resulted in an impressive win!
8. Anwar Ali
Ali, a Punjab resident, used to work in the Punjab Police before starting his professional career in football.
He is currently playing for Punjab FC in the I-League for the center-back position.
Ali has also played for the Punjab Santosh Trophy team in the year 2004.
His journey in the field of football is fascinating!
In training days, the assistant coach of Punjab Police saw the potential in him and encouraged him to sign up for JCT FC in 2005.
He was declared as the most promising footballer in the Durand Cup held during 2006.
Ali signed up for several significant teams in the I-League during his career, starting from Dempo FC, United Sikkim FC, Mumbai FC to ATK football club (Atletico de Kolkata).
He got his first international break in the year 2008 during the SAFF Cup along with the AFC Challenge Cup.
His partnership with Gouramangi Singh proved excellent in that match since India scored three goals in five games.
He also played a pivotal role for India in winning the Nehru Cup.
7. Rowllin Borges
Borges is currently a defensive midfielder in the Indian National Football Team and in 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 the year 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 into 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.
He had an active role in 12 out of 14 games for the Northeast United FC from the year 2016-19.
Rowlin Borges is also declared as the AIFF Emerging Player 2016.
6. 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 famous Indian football players.
Young Kotal started his international career while playing for the U-19 and then signing up for the I-League of AIFF in 2011.
He signed up for Mohun Bagan in 2013, which was for him like a dream come true.
He also played for the 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 went on to play the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Nepal, which was a remarkable win for team India.
5. 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 UAE during the year 2014.
All India Football Federation appointed him the Captain of The Indian National Team in the year 2017.
Though he left Kerala, he gained a large amount of fanbase, particularly among South Indian people.
Currently, he holds the record for the most 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 due to an ACL injury.
He was an essential part of the Indian team for two FIFA world cup qualifier games against Qatar and Oman.
4. 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.
While he made his international debut when he represented India in the U-19 and U-23 levels.
Sandhu’s senior team debut resulted in a 1-1 draw against Turkmenistan in the year 2011.
This 28-year-old was declared the Indian Football Captain in 2016 (a huge 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 like IFA Shield, Federation Cup during the year 2012, Calcutta Football League for four consecutive years, Arjuna Award in 2019, etc.
3. Jeje Lalpekhlua
Belonging to the tiny town of Mizoram, this Indian football player comes from a football background.
Jeje Lalpekhlua usually plays in the center-forward position but is also competent in playing from the wings.
Jeje arrived in the spotlight after a dynamite performance at the Wai Wai Cup held in Mizoram.
Because of his solid performance, Jeje made it to the under-19 team and never looked back!
He went for the Red Lizards at the age of 16. Jeje then was the Captain of the India Under-19 team in the South Asian Games.
Since his ISL debut, this Mizo striker was quick to latch on to a goal-scoring form. Eventually, he finished as the highest Indian scorer in the league with four goals.
He was furthermore chosen as the ‘Emerging Player’ of the season. Jeje won the ISL for Chennaiyin FC and the SAFF competition in the year 2015.
2. Subrata Pal
Subrata Paul is one of India’s best Goalkeepers and a central member of the Hyderabad FC.
His performances in the Indian National Team have been impeccable.
The 33-year-old has earned the name of ‘Spiderman of India’ by making over 35 saves in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and is one of the most notable football players but remains grounded as ever.
Signing up for Mohun Bagan at 18 in 2004 was a kick start for Subrata’s career in football.
Subrata Paul made himself an international icon by pushing the Indian team to defeat Kyrgyzstan in the semi-finals and Syria by a 1-0 margin in the Nehru Cup 2007.
Subrata Paul is perhaps the fourth Indian player and the first Indian goalkeeper to set records in the international leagues.
He was appointed as the Captain of the Indian Football Team in 2015 and was rewarded with the Arjuna Award in the year 2016.
1. Sunil Chhetri
Sunil Chhetri is the best football player in India in 2021, playing the center-forward position as a striker or winger.
His contribution to the Football world is impeccable.
Sunil Chhetri was born in 1984 had a 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 had signed up for Mohun Bagan.
He represented India in 115 international events and still aspires to play more.
During his early competitive career, he was perhaps one of the best players during the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.
Chetri pushed the Indian team to qualify in 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 Cup alongside the 2011 SAFF Championship.
He was likewise awarded the title of ‘Player of the Year’ by the All India Football Federation board during 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.