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Free agent Sunil Chhetri can sign for club of his choice

Sunil Chhetri, 36, the architect of two critical goals in India’s 2-0 win over Bangladesh in the ongoing Doha double qualifier (World Cup 2022 Asia Qualifier and Asian Cup 2023), can afford to build on his reputation at any Indian Super League club of choice. Bengaluru FC’s contract with the goal-machine ended on May 31, 2021. As a free agent, he can choose continuity or change.

BFC have not made a formal announcement of a fresh contract with their team captain. The India striker, in demand as a match-winner and leader, was the highest earner among Indian pros in the Rs 2 crore per season category till central defender Sandesh Jhingan signed a five-year deal with ATK Mohun Bagan in 2020 and joined the India captain in earnings per season.

Jhingan moved to the Kolkata ISL club on a free transfer, after his contract with Kerala Blasters FC ended last year. Chhetri, who enjoyed the same status post-May 2021, is on a free transfer and can make his move, continue with BFC on a fresh contract or accept offers from other clubs.

The ISL rule change next season (every team to field maximum four foreigners in the playing squad) creates more opportunities for in-form Indians to make a bigger impact. Chhetri was contracted with BFC from the 2013-2014 season when the club was formed and except for stints with Mumbai City FC (2015-2016), has been loyal to the Bangalore club. Mandar Tamhane, CEO at BFC stressed: “Sunil Chhetri brings more to the team than what we see on the pitch. He is an inspiration to teammates, especially the younger ones for whom he is a mentor.”

The next career move will be eagerly watched, in the wake of Chhetri’s reputation as a match-winner and crowd-puller across India. The scorer of 74 international goals has in the past excelled in Kolkata (Mohun Bagan, East Bengal), Goa (Dempo SC, Churchill Brothers), Punjab (Jagatjit Cotton Textiles) to name a few big clubs. Foreign stints include Major League Soccer (Sporting Kansas City) and Portugal(Sporting CP ‘B’ team).

For now, BFC awaits Chhetri’s decision as the India captain will step out at Doha against Afghanistan next in the concluding group game. A a win is necessary to ensure a place in Asian Cup 2023, featuring national teams from the Asian region. A berth in World Cup 2022 is out of bounds for Team India, hence the ISL season 2021-22 remains the home attraction for reputed players to negotiate the best deal.

Also Read: Kylian Mbappe will be Euro 2020 hero: Former India footballers


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