Even Messi would not be picked by Argentina if he played only 70 days in a year - Sunil Chhetri

The India skipper spoke on the dilemma a footballers finds himself in given that he has to choose between the I-League clubs and IMG-Reliance's initiative...

Sunil Chhetri spoke on the topic of the protracted dispute between the I-League clubs and the proposed new league by All India Football Federation's (AIFF) marketing and commercial partners IMG-Reliance.

With the I-League Professional Football Clubs Association (IPFCA) already deciding not to associate with any player involved in IMG-Reliance's initiative, the players are in two minds on whom they must sign for.

On the topic of the lucrative contracts that IMG-R is offering to Indian players, Chhetri said that its tough on players to decide especially with the lack of playing time being a deterrent to his dreams of representing his country.

"Think of a player who wants to do well. He gets an IMG-R offer and signs with them. What happens to his national aspirations then, especially since he does not play for well over six months," Chhetri told NDTV.

The Indian national team skipper mentioned that he is biding time before making a call on his future.

"I am pretty calm even though IMG-R had approached me with a contract about five months back. I am taking time. If the three entities i.e - the clubs, AIFF and IMG-R are not in one position, then I will choose the right thing at that time. Till that time I have the liberty to decide. I want to wait and I am sure that the three entities will come on the same pitch."

He was however quick to point out that unless the confrontation between the stakeholders could be cleared, even a player of the caliber of Lionel Messi would not be picked for the national team on the basis of just 70 odd days of playing time. He cited his own example of not getting enough game time in Portugal and as a result he would need time to get back in shape.

"Without sounding biased, 70 days of football is not enough. Even if Messi plays 70 days he cannot be in the national team. You need to play around the year to be in contention for the national team."

"When I was in Portugal I hardly played six-or-seven matches. Although I would train daily to keep my shape. Even then it was really difficult when I came back to get in shape and represent my country."

Chhetri did accept that the I-League was indeed making progress but the process has been slow. However he hoped that all the stakeholders would come to a compromise as all of them wanted the betterment of Indian football and there was no single person to blame given that things have moved at snail's pace.

"Definitely we are making progress but a very slow one. I would not say that the I-League is stagnant but if we were to compare with the big European leagues, we are certainly not there yet. Whom to blame? The AIFF or the clubs. There are a lot of questions which need to be asked. But right now, nothing is going to come up if we start pointing fingers."
Chhetri reiterated that amongst all this it was the players who were in the worst position as they would have to make a decision which would define their career.

"I get calls from players who have signed for the I-League and from players who have signed for IMG-Reliance and players who have been targeted by both the clubs and IMG-Reliance. For them, it's a nightmare to choose the better of the two as they have to worry about themselves, money, their parents and so many things on an individual level."

Chhetri concluded by saying that he would not like to speculate and think about what would happen if a settlement could not be reached between the warring factions.

"It would be a disaster. I don't want to think about it. We need IMG-Reliance in Indian football as they are an important sponsor."