The I-League 2022-23 season was a revelation for Indian football in producing a plethora of amazing talents who performed at their very best throughout the season. The league took a turn after the first half of the season when some teams fell under pressure while some rose to the occasion. However, interestingly, there were some extraordinary players who were consistent throughout the season no matter where their team was placed in the points table.
The competition was intense among the teams in the top half of the table, however, surprisingly, several unexpected talents were delivering remarkable performances, irrespective of whether they belonged to top or bottom-half teams. These players displayed exceptional skills and abilities on the field, which make them suitable candidates for the next level of football in their career, as well as players to keep an eye out for the future. The league ended just the opposite way from what was predicted before the season, but Indian football will have abundance of brilliant players who can be a part of the national team in the future. Let’s take a look at some top-performing Indian players in I-League this season.
10. Seilenthang Lotjem ( Sudeva Delhi FC )
Seilenthang Lotjem, an 18-year-old winger, is the league’s top Indian goal scorer with six goals. The Manipuri youngster has been a crucial part of Sudeva Delhi FC for three seasons now, but it is this season that has truly brought him into the limelight. He hails from JCT Football Academy and has been a prolific scorer throughout his career. He is, without a doubt, the standout performer for his team, not only topping the scoring charts but also making valuable contributions to the team as a whole.
He has played in multiple positions during his stint with Sudeva but his strength lies in laying off pin point balls into the box from wings and his excellent finishing skills. He is a player who draws fouls from the opposition because of his sublime dribbling skills and accurate 1v1 dealing. He is an am-bipedal footballer who uses finesse shots to bury the chances he gets. His performance will surely be noted by top clubs and is certainly a prospect for the future from I-League.
9. Buanthanglun Samte ( TRAU FC )
Buanthanglun Samte is a 23-year-old defender who has been instrumental in TRAU FC‘s finish in Top-4 this season. The former Pune FC and now dissolved Pune City FC academy player has donned the jersey of the team from Manipur for the past two seasons. For two seasons now, he has been an integral part of the team’s attack, resulting in two goals and two assists to his name. Having come through the I-League’s second division, he understands the importance of top-level football and has earned his place as one of the best players in the league.
He is solid ball playing defender who is constantly involved in defensive duels. But, his strong point lies in his dangerous progressive deliveries into the box from open play and set pieces. He has made a total of 172 progressive passes and 63 crosses with 42% accuracy. Top division clubs in need of a player with his potential will definitely be forced to take note of his performance, statistics, and impact on the pitch this season in the I-League.
8. Lalliansanga Renthlei ( Rajasthan United FC )
Another player from the Northeast region to excel in the I-League is Lalliansanga Renthlei, who hails from Mizoram. The 23-year-old midfielder came through the youth system of AIFF Elite Academy and was eventually signed by ISL side Chennaiyin FC. He donned the jersey of the Marina Machans own team in the I-League Second Division and later went to sign for the Indian Arrows. But, he came into spotlight after he signed for Sudeva Delhi FC. His perfomance earned him a contract from Rajasthan United FC, where he is donning the jersey at present.
He is a solid defensive midfielder who possess good height and ball control. His work rate and commitment to supporting the defense is commendable, and his ability to carry the ball forward with precision makes him one of the best players in the league. He is an intelligent player who can progress the ball well into the final third with accuracy. With his outstanding performances, he has proven to be an important player for his team and is definitely one to watch for in the future.
7. Khaiminthang Lhungdim ( Roundglass Punjab FC )
Khaiminthang Lhungdim is a 22 year old Manipuri midfielder who came through the ranks of the Neroca FC academy. His stint with Neroca FC was an exceptional one, staying there for three years and became a regular for them. His performance was monitored by Roundglass Punjab FC who grabbed the opportunity to get him on board for the I-League.
He is one of the most consistent performers in the league with three assists to his name. His technique to deal with 1v1 situation is exceptional and he possesses dangerous crossing ability under his belt. He is a solid player with a pretty decent creative aspect to his game making him one of the top players in the league in terms of efficiency on the field.
6. Lalnuntluanga Bawitlung ( Real Kashmir FC )
Lalnuntluanga is a 23-year-old midfielder who emerged through the ranks of AIFF Elite Academy. His performance grabbed the attention of Bengaluru FC, where he played in the I-League Second Division, and later on signed with FC Goa’s second team. He was picked up by Real Kashmir FC before this season, where he went on to register 2 goals and four assists to his name.
He is a double footed player who is equipped with an excellent game reading ability and finishing. His ability to score from long range strikes and his wide range of passing options make him a dangerous threat for the opposition to deal with. Additionally, he has the vision to position himself freely inside the box, making him available for good chances to finish, which he has taken advantage of. Lalnuntluanga is undeniably a man to take a note of for top division teams.
5. Huidrom Naocha Singh ( Roundglass Punjab FC )
Huidrom Naocha Singh is a 23 year old defender who can slot in on both sides of the defense. He came through the academy of NEROCA FC and went on to play for TRAU FC for a single season in 2018. He came back to NEROCA to make his debut in the I-League. He was noticed during his stint with Gokulam Kerala FC for two seasons, where he was picked up by City Group owned Mumbai City FC in 2021. He was loaned out to ISL side East Bengal FC during that season and now he is playing as a loan player for Roundglass Punjab FC where he also won the I-League title.
With incredible passing range and high confidence, he is a dependable defender who formed an unbreakable duo with Valpuia, making them one of the most solid defensive pairs in the league. Playing in the left-back position this season, he demonstrated solid performances both defensively and offensively, contributing significantly to the team’s success. As he is currently a loanee, it remains to be seen what his future holds, as he will be returning to Mumbai City FC.
4. Salam Johnson Singh ( TRAU FC )
Salam Johnson Singh is another top prospect for Indian football who hails from Manipur. He is a 23-year-old centre forward who came through the ranks of SAI academy. He joined East Bengal and Lonestar Kashmir FC after this period, but he came into the limelight this season with TRAU FC where he managed to score 5 goals and had an assist to his name. He is very dangerous in efficiently creating goal scoring chances from anywhere near the penalty area.
In addition, he displays excellent utilization of both his feet and possesses an impressive ability to identify his teammate’s runs. His ability in 1v1 situations with a 59% success rate and 53% accuracy in shots makes him a daunting player to defend against. Despite not having a strong physical presence, he fearlessly engages in duels and challenges.
3. R Lalthanmawia ( Aizawl FC )
One more phenomenal talent from Mizoram who has been a revolution in this season’s I-League campaign is R Lalthanmawia, the 20-year-old midfielder / winger who dons the jersey of Aizawl FC. He has been with the team for two seasons now and, when given the opportunity, he stunned everyone with his brilliant display in midfield this season, registering three goals and five assists.
His prowess to create something out of nothing makes him unique and special. He immediately found his spot in the Aizawl midfield and was a regular starter throughout the league. With a total of 49 shots taken and a 45% accuracy rate, he is a potent threat in attack. In addition to this, he has managed to deliver 78 progressive passes with an 80% success rate, which further showcases his skills as a midfielder.
His ability to excel in one-on-one situations often leads to opponents fouling him. Considering his impressive abilities, he could be a valuable addition to any team in the Indian Super League and is certainly a player to keep an eye on for the future of Indian football.
2. R Ramdinthara/Tharpuia ( Aizawl FC )
R Ramdinthara, also known as “Tharpuia,” is a rising star who demonstrated his exceptional talent during the recently concluded I-League season. At just 20 years old, he has already made a name for himself as a right winger, having come through the youth system of Northeast United FC in 2018. Although he initially went unnoticed, Tharpuia’s skills caught the attention of Aizawl FC after a local football tournament in Mizoram, proving to be a turning point in his career. He seized the opportunity and secured his position in the top league in the country, showcasing his remarkable abilities.
In his debut season in the I-League, he made an impressive mark by scoring four goals and providing five assists, despite playing for a team that finished in the bottom half of the table. Though he primarily plays as a right winger, he is versatile enough to play on the left wing and in the centre forward position. With his exceptional ability to position himself free of defenders, he is a difficult player to mark.
He possesses excellent close ball control and impressive skills on the wings that makes him a scintillating player to watch. Tharpuia has an impressive record of laying off 20 key passes and 90 progressive passes, with an accuracy rate of 71%, establishing himself as one of the top players in the league.
1. Samuel Kynshi ( Real Kashmir FC )
Samuel James Lyngdoh Kynshi commonly known as Samuel Kynshi is a 23-year-old winger/midfielder who is an academy product of the famous Shillong Lajong FC. He came through their youth system to their main team because of his incredible performances during that time. He has 6 goals and an assist to his name for them in the I-League. Later, he had a short stint with Kerala Blasters FC as a loan player in the I-League Second Division. He was then signed by Real Kashmir FC in 2020.
His breakout season was this year’s I-League campaign where he became the joint top Indian goal scorer with 6 goals and the second most Indian assist provider in the league adding 5 to his name and thus making a total of 11 goal contributions in the league. He is equipped with an excellent game reading ability and is capable to lodge stunning deliveries into the box with precision from both wings. He is a top finisher and a fearless campaigner who doesn’t back off from strong challenges and duels. He is also a good set piece and corner taker making him an inevitable part of the squad.
The above mentioned names represent only a fraction of the talents in Indian football, who have caught the eyes throughout the I-League campaign. There are, however, a few other names that are equally deserving of recognition.
Noufal P N, of Gokulam Kerala FC, shone brightly with 6 assists, establishing himself as a standout performer for the former champions. Rosenberg Gabriel, with 6 assists, played a vital role in his team, Sreenidi Deccan’s, success. Tangva Ragui, of Neroca FC, is a young, rising star who is sure to make his way to the top level of football in due course.
Brandon Vanlaremdika, who registered 2 goals and 4 assists, played an instrumental role in his team’s championship triumph, while Valpuia and Naocha Singh formed a formidable defensive duo for Roundglass Punjab FC. William Pauliankhum, of Rajasthan United FC, along with Renthlei, laid the foundation for their midfield. Lalmalsawma, who played every minute of the league, proved to be a crucial piece of the puzzle for Aizawl FC with his precise and progressive passes, as well as his through balls from the wing.
Kiran Pandhare, playing as a solitary warrior in the midfield for Kenkre FC, stood out with his strong physical presence, while Aman Gaikwad, with 2 goals and 4 assists, proved to be a valuable asset to the team. Ranjeet Singh Pandare also deserves a mention for his delicate and clinical finishing and physicality in the box, having scored 3 goals and provided 3 assists. Anil Gaonkar, with 4 goals and 2 assists, and Lamgoulen Hangshing, who provided a solid defensive presence for Churchill Brothers FC, were also noteworthy performers in this season’s campaign.
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