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Top 5 players with the most goals for Indian national football team

Football is still a sport that is on the rise in India, with it still finding its feet among the public, though in recent times it has grown exponentially. The emergence of the Indian Super League (ISL) has had a big role to play in Indian football’s rise. What the country might need more now are footballing superstars who can pull youngsters into the game and inspire them.

Here, we take a look at the top 5 players with the most goals for the Indian national football team

NoNameGoals for IndiaAppearances
1Sunil Chhetri*93145
2IM Vijayan2968
3Bhaichung Bhutia2782
4Jeje Lalpekhlua2356
5Shabbir Ali2372
*– Active player

Let’s explore the top 5 players with the most goals for the Indian national football team

1. Sunil Chhetri 

Goals: 93 goals

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Appearances: 145

Years Active: 2005 – Present

Sunil Chhetri
Sunil Chhetri
India v Bahrain – AFC Asian Cup Group A | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

The current captain of the Indian national team, Sunil Chhetri, also captains his ISL side Bengaluru FC. An inspiration for every young footballer at this time, Chhetri is arguably the biggest footballing superstar to come from India. A lethal finisher, he has already netted 93 goals in 143 games and will definitely add more to his tally in the near future. He is also the most-capped Indian player.

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Born in Secunderabad, Chhetri is second on the list of the highest number of goals scored in international matches among active male players after Cristiano Ronaldo and fourth on the all-time list. Coming from a country like India, which is currently the 100th-ranked FIFA nation, is a huge achievement in itself.

2. IM Vijayan 

Goals: 29

Appearances: 68

Years Active: 1989-2006

I.M.Vijayan
I.M.Vijayan | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A footballing legend, Inivalappil Mani Vijayan, popularly known as Kalo Harin (Black Buck), is one of the finest footballers to come from India. He was the captain of the national team and was a prolific striker throughout his career as seen by the 29 goals he scored in 66 games. 

IM Vijayan formed a successful attacking partnership with a player just next on our list, Bhaichung Bhutia, for the Indian national team in the late nineties and early 2000s. The 51-year-old won the AIFF Player of the Year award thrice (1993, 1997, and 1999), while also being bestowed with the Arjuna Award in 2003.

Such a talented player in his prime that he attracted interest from the clubs in Malaysia and Thailand, although he spent his entire career in India until retirement. Since retiring from international football, Vijayan has set up a football academy to train young players in his hometown in Kerala.

3. Bhaichung Bhutia 

Goals: 27

Appearances: 82

Years Active: 1995-2011

India's Bhaichung Bhutia  celebrates goa
Bhaichung Bhutia

Born in Tinkitam, Sikkim in 1976, Bhaichung Bhutia was described by IM Vijayan as “God’s gift to Indian Football”. Bhutia can be described as India’s first football superstar, earning immense respect and accolades for his hard work in Indian football. The 44-year-old won numerous honours during his career including two AIFF Player of the Year awards, the 1998 Arjuna Award, and the 2008 Padma Shri.

Bhutia has many Indian football records to his name including when he joined English club Bury in 1999, he became the first Indian footballer to sign a contract with a European club and only the second to play professionally in Europe. His achievements with the national team include the Nehru Cup, LG Cup, SAFF Championship three times, and the AFC Challenge Cup. One of the most memorable moments of his career came after his retirement, when the India national team played a farewell match for him on 10 January 2012 against a star-studded Bayern Munich side at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi.

4. Jeje Lalpekhlua 

Goals: 23

Appearances: 56

Years Active: 2011 – Present

jeje lalpekhlua chennaiyin jamshedpur 1vjr0sswhnj5w1jytq71bv4ryz Top 5 players with the most goals for Indian national football team
Jeje Lalpekhlua
India v Bahrain – AFC Asian Cup Group A | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

Jeje Lalpekhlua is one of the unsung heroes of the Indian national football team. He has been a huge influence in many victories including India’s 2011 and 2015 SAFF Cup wins but his name has never come up as a superstar footballer. He has fallen out of favour late in the national team, however, he has scored 23 goals so far and at 30 years old, he still has time to add to his tally. 

Jeje is the second-highest Indian goalscorer in the ISL since its inception. In 2015, he won the I-league with Mohun Bagan and the ISL with Chennaiyin FC and was subsequently named the FPAI Football Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see how his career pans out as he comes to the twilight of his career.

5. Shabbir Ali 

Goals: 23

Appearances: 72

Years Active: 1974-1984

Shabbir Ali Image via Khel Now Top 5 players with the most goals for Indian national football team
Shabbir Ali. Image: Sportstar

Prolific at both international and club level, Shabbir Ali was widely hailed as the best Indian footballer in the 1970s and 1980s. The 65-year-old, who currently manages Southern Samity (a Calcutta Football League Premier Division A club), scored 23 goals during his career. Post-retirement, he has managed some top I-League clubs including Churchill Brothers and Mohammedan. 

In 2011, Ali was awarded India’s highest sporting honour, the Dhyan Chand Award – becoming the only footballer to do so.

FAQ

  1. Which player has the most goals for the Indian National Football Team?

    Sunil Chhetri has the most goals for the Indian National Football Team.

Read:

Top 5 football players with the most international wins in history

Top 10 Premier League goalkeepers with the most clean sheets

Top 10 Biggest Football Stadiums in India in 2024

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