Indian football: Top Indian goal-scorers in ISL

Bengaluru FC's talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri, Chennaiyin FC's Jeje Lalpekhlua, Lallianzuala Chhangte and the other Indian topscorers in ISL.

Chhetri was Bengaluru FC's top-scorer in its title-winning season in 2018-19.   -  ISL MEDIA

The Indian Super League was established in 2014 as the platform to take Indian football to greater heights. The tournament gave Indians a chance to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in world football – albeit in the twilight phases of their careers – like Alessandro Del Piero, Diego Forlan, and Nicolas Anelka. And it paid dividends as the emergence of players like Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sahal Abdul Samad and Ashique Kuruniyan can be attributed to the ISL.

However, there has been one area of concern that the ISL has not been unable to address – the lack of Indian strikers in the league. A worrisome factor that even India coach Igor Stimac has lamented about. 

READ: Igor Stimac worried about lack of Indian strikers

The imports, the likes of Stiven Mendoza, Ferran Coromoninas, and more recently, Roy Krishna and Nerijus Valskis have ruled the roost when it comes to finding the net. Their Indian counterparts have offered little competition. Not a single Indian has won the Golden Boot in six seasons. Sparring Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri and Chennaiyin FC’s leading goal-scorer Jeje Lalpekhlua, no Indian features in the top-15 scorers over the six editions of the ISL.

 Here, Sportstar takes a look at the five best Indian goalscorers across the six seasons of the ISL. (Hint: a couple of them aren’t even traditional strikers!)

1) Sunil Chhetri – 39 goals in 74 games

Sunil Chhetri has been key to Bengaluru FC reaching the semifinals this season.   -  ISL Media

 

Sunil Chhetri has been the best Indian striker in the ISL by a mile. With 39 goals in five seasons, Chhetri is the leading Indian goalscorer of the tournament. He made his debut for Mumbai City FC in season 2 and scored seven goals that year. 

However, ISL got its first proper taste of Chhetri’s magic when Bengaluru FC was inducted into the competition in 2017. He scored a remarkable 14 goals that campaign – the most by an Indian in an ISL season – to steer Bengaluru to the top of the table and into the final, where it eventually lost to Chennaiyin FC.

READ: Carles Cuadrat: I'd be worried if I were Igor Stimac

Being the consistent champion that he is, Chhetri bagged nine goals and three assists to power Bengaluru to the ISL the following year. Averaging 10 goals over the last three seasons, the 35-year-old has cemented his spot as the tournament’s best Indian forward.  

 

2) Jeje Lalpekhlua – 23 goals in 69 matches

Chennaiyin FC's Jeje Lalpekhlua has been out of an year due to injury.   -  ISL MEDIA

 

Though he hasn’t played in over a year now owing to a knee injury, Jeje remains the second-most prolific goalscorer in the ISL. With 23 goals to his name, the Mizo striker has the distinction of being the only player to have scored in every ISL season. He is sixth on the ISL’s all-time goal-scorers list.

READ: Jeje comes to rescue of people in need of blood

Having joined Chennaiyin FC in the inaugural season in 2014, the 29-year-old is the side’s leading goal scorer. His nine strikes in the fourth season saw Chennaiyin FC take home a second ISL title.

He has now recovered from injury and was named in the Indian national team’s camp for the FIFA World Cup qualifier game against Qatar.

 

3) Lallianzuala Chhangte – 15 goals in 58 matches

Lallianzuala Chhangte

Lallianzuala Chhangte's form was a key to Chennaiyin FC's run into the final of the ISL 2019-20.   -  SPORTZPICS for ISL

 

Chhangte’s ISL career has seen the youngster grow from strength to strength. The 22-year-old winger’s first tryst with the ISL came when he was loaned to NorthEast United FC by I-League side DSK Shiavajians. He made just one appearance that year but went on to play in every game for Delhi Dynamos over the next two seasons.

Chhangte was one of Dynamos’ brightest talents and his mercurial pace saw him earn a spot in 36 games, where he struck eight goals and crafted four assists.

READ: Lallianzuala Chhangte - Goals, misses and everything in between

He then made the move to Chennaiyin FC last year and enjoyed the best season of his life as he bagged seven goals, playing an integral part in the club’s run to the final. His seven strikes were the most by an Indian from open play and he finished the season as the second-highest Indian goalscorer after Chhetri.

With 15 goals from 58 games, Chhangte finds himself on the 16th spot in the ISL’s goal-scoring charts across six seasons.

 

4) C.K. Vineeth – 13 goals in 58 matches - 17

C.K. Vineeth has been roped in from Kerala Blasters to Jamshedpur's attack for the 2019-20 season.   -  ISL Media

 

Vineeth joined Kerala Blasters on a loan in his debut ISL season in 2015. Having impressed with his striking abilities for Bengaluru FC which was in the I-League then, he was touted as the Blasters’ trump card. However, he had a poor season as he managed no goals in his nine appearances. He made up for it the next season as he netted five goals to take Blasters to the final and ended the season as the leading Indian goalscorer.

READ: C.K. Vineeth joins COVID-19 helpline centre in Kerala

He was subsequently retained by Blasters for the 2017-18 season and struck four times. He was then loaned to Chennaiyin FC but managed only three goals and later moved to Jamshedpur FC last year. The 33-year-old struggled for playing time and eked out the solitary goal in his 10 appearances.

 

5) Jackichand Singh – 13 goals in 73 matches 

Jackichand Singh

FC Goa's Jackichand also featured for India in the AFC Asian Cup.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

 

Manipuri midfielder Jackichand’s first two ISL seasons, with the now-disbanded FC Pune City, and Mumbai City FC yielded only two goals. He then played for Kerala Blasters in season 3 and earned two goals and three assists, but his best came after his move to FC Goa the following season. Thriving in Goa’s fluid gameplay and given complete freedom to explore the right flank, the attacking midfielder became one of the side’s most influential players.

READ: East Bengal ropes in Balwant Singh from ATK

Using his fiery pace and crafty footwork, he played in each of the side’s 21 games in 2018-19, where it lost to Bengaluru in the final. Jackichand had racked up four assists and as many goals and followed it up with five strikes and three assists last season to assure FC Goa of the top spot at the end of the league stage. The feat saw FC Goa become the first ISL club to seal its berth in the group stage of the AFC Champions League.

  Dugout videos