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‘Heading abroad is my priority’

sports Updated: Jun 17, 2011 23:39 IST
HT Correspondent

Having been with a foreign club once, it is understandable why Sunil Chhetri wants to go out again. Chhetri had signed for Kansas City Wizards, who play in the USA's Major League Soccer, last season and is the only player in independent India apart from Bhaichung Bhutia to have joined a club outside the sub-continent.

"If I get a chance to play for a club outside India, I will definitely take it. It is my first priority but for now I am focusing on the India camp as it is more important," said the 26-year-old who joined Kolkata's Chirag United after the Asian Cup. Chhetri scored twice in three games in the Asian Cup finals, netting against Bahrain and South Korea.

"My agent (Yogesh Joshi) is in talks with European clubs and the transfer window is open till August so something should work out," he said.

Asked whether he would be a trialist at Portuguese giants Benfica, Chhetri said: "I don't really know what is happening. The problem is that in Europe, most people don't rate Indian players very highly because of our low FIFA ranking (now 145). But there is a lot of talent in India and I have performed for the clubs I have played for so far so I'm optimistic."

A central figure in previous coach Bob Houghton's squad, Chhetri sounded satisfied with Armando Colaco's style. "I was with Dempo and they have followed the same style of play for the last 10 years so I was not expecting anything different here. It helps that there are a lot Dempo players here who can help others with the style of possession football."
Chhetri, who has 22 national goals to his name, also spoke of Houghton and former India skipper Bhaichung Baichung, among those axed by Colaco for the three-week camp ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against the UAE.
"Bob achieved a lot for the side but that is done and dusted now. We need to look forward. Also, this is my first national camp without Bhaichung but it had to happen. However, it is a great opportunity for the youngsters especially (Indian Arrows forward) Jeje Lalpekhlua who has had a great season."