India football captain Sunil Chettri, 27, will join Sporting Lisbon this season. Sporting Lisbon is one of the top clubs in Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Luis Figo are among those who have come out of its academy.
Chhetri didn’t want to talk about it but reports on the internet out of Europe on Wednesday spoke about the deal which could make him the first Indian to play in a Portugal club. An official announcement is likely in New Delhi on Thursday.
A report quoted club president Luiz Godinho Lopes as saying: “We are keen to support the development of football in India. We along with our partners Football One, are looking at ways in which we can leverage the technical knowledge and coaching expertise that resides within the club to support Indian football…. We are here for the long term and our signing on Sunil Chhetri is the first of our initiatives.”
In 2010, Chhetri became the first Indian to join the USA’s Major League Soccer when he signed for Sporting Kansas City. He was adjudged Player of the Year for 2011 by the AIFF. Chhetri scored two goals in the Asian Cup finals last year, one each against Bahrain and South Korea.