Sunil Chhetri, India’s Football Captain, Announces Retirement as Third Highest Active Men’s International Goal Scorer

Sunil Chhetri, India’s Football Captain, Announces Retirement as Third Highest Active Men’s International Goal Scorer

Sunil Chhetri, the world’s third-highest active international goalscorer in men’s football, will play his final game for India next month – and paid an emotional tribute in saying goodbye. 

In a video on X (formerly Twitter), the national team captain said India’s World Cup qualifier against Kuwait on June 6 would be his final outing on the international stage.

The 39-year-old has been involved in India’s games for the past 19 years, and leaves behind a legacy where his goalscoring tally means he is only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among currently-active men’s players.

In the video, which ran to almost ten minutes long, Chhetri reminisced about the highs and lows of his career, and also said: ‘One last game… for all our sakes…let’s win the game and we can depart, happily.’ 

He expressed grief over his decision to quit the Indian national team, adding: ‘The kid inside will probably keep fighting to play football, but the sensible, mature player and person knows that this is it. But it wasn’t easy.’

India captain Sunil Chhetri has announced his retirement from international football 

Chhetri has 94 goals for India, the third-highest active total in international men's football

Chhetri has 94 goals for India, the third-highest active total in international men’s football

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He added: ‘A lot of times people talk about highest scorer, this or that, but the one thing that I think I’ve really got the best of, and I was really pampered is the love and affection I got. It’s time for our country to see the next number nine.’ 

Chhetri, who captains his Indian Super League club Bengaluru, scored on his international debut in 2005 against Pakistan, and has since taken his tally to 94 goals, across 150 appearances so far, which puts him fourth on the all-time list.

In third place, Argentina icon Messi has 106 goals to his name, while Iran’s Ali Daei scored 108 goals during his career between 1993 and 2006.

Cristiano Ronaldo leads the world in men’s football, with his 128 goals across 206 Portugal caps. 

The official FIFA World Cup X account said he was ‘Retiring as a legend’, with a mock-up showing him on a podium alongside Messi and Ronaldo. 

Chhetri has won the Arjuna Award, India’s second-highest sporting honour, and the Padma Shri, which is the country’s fourth-highest civilian award.

The FIFA World Cup account shared a podium with him, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

The FIFA World Cup account shared a podium with him, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

He has helped India to win the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup and other honours

He has helped India to win the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup and other honours

During his time with the Indian national team, they have won the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, the South Asian Football Federation Championship and the Intercontinental Cup among other honours.

They currently sit second in their World Cup qualifying group, with the top two sides progressing to the next phase, as well as the 2027 Asian Cup.  

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