Anirudh Thapa is one of the most talented midfielders in India and one who can operate in multiple roles at the centre of the park. 

The 25-year-old has built his reputation over the years and Chennaiyin FC, the club that brought him into the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) played a big part in his development. 

Having joined the club in 2016 as a developmental player, the midfielder rose through the pecking order to become the club’s captain. 

His time with the Marina Machans though came to an end on Friday as he joined Mohun Bagan Super Giant, putting an end to a seven-year journey that has made him the player his today. 

As Thapa embarks on a new chapter in his career, here’s a look at his time at Chennaiyin FC

Hero ISL 2016: A taste of the big stage

Thapa made his Chennaiyin FC debut against FC Goa at the age of 18 when Marco Materazzi thrust him into the starting XI. In what was a chaotic game in which Chennaiyin FC lost 4-5 to the Gaurs, Thapa showed glimpses of his quality. It was his first taste of top-level professional football. 

Hero ISL 2017-18: Super-sub Thapa catches the eye

After playing a key part in Minerva Punjab’s Hero I-League triumph in 2017, Thapa was restored to the Chennaiyin FC squad under John Gregory. The midfielder was largely used as a substitute by Gregory to inject energy into the team and he did that to perfection. He was also impressive during the rare starts he got and scored his first goal for the club against NorthEast United FC and followed it up with an assist in the next match against ATK FC. 

He stepped it up a notch in the knockout stage as he scored in the semi-final win against FC Goa and was a livewire during his substitute appearance in the final against Bengaluru FC in front of a hostile Kanteerava stadium. 

With a little under 700 minutes and multiple power-packed performances from the bench under his belt in 2017-18, Thapa was ready to rise. 

Hero ISL 2018-19: Thapa stands tall in a disappointing season

Chennaiyin FC had a season to forget in 2018-19 as they finished bottom of the table with just nine points on the board, scoring just 16 goals all campaign. 

For Thapa it was a season of transitioning from being a super sub to a full-fledged starter. He was also used in a more defensive-minded role that season and was a regular feature for the time playing 1266 minutes for the Marina Machans. He was the shining light in an otherwise bleak season. 

Hero ISL 2019-20: Thapa, the creator

After a torrid start to the season, Chennaiyin FC picked up form under new head coach Owen Coyle as they went on an eleven-match unbeaten run to qualify for the final. The Scottish manager was successful in unlocking Thapa’s attacking potential as he produced five assists that season. He also scored in the semi-final win over FC Goa that set Chennaiyin FC on their way to their third Hero ISL final. 

With every passing season, Thapa was inching closer to becoming the complete midfielder. 

Hero ISL 2020-21: Sweet end to an injury-plagued season 

The midfielder scored in Chennaiyin FC’s very first match of the season against Jamshedpur FC but a leg injury curtailed his great start to the season. Thapa recovered after missing just two games to add to his goal tally with a goal against Hyderabad FC but the fitness issues resurfaced as he managed to play just 916 minutes that season. 

The stop-start campaign ended on a sweet note as he was named the captain in Chennaiyin FC’s final match of the season against rivals Kerala Blasters FC which they drew. 

Hero ISL 2021-22: Shift to attacking midfield

Thapa retained the captain’s armband ahead of the 2021-22 season and then head coach Bozidar Bandovic also had a more advanced role for his midfield asset. The Montenegrin used him as an attacking midfielder in many matches and Thapa delivered two assists and a goal that season. 

The midfielder took responsibility when the coach demanded and showed that he had completed the journey from being a prodigy to a top professional.

Hero ISL 2022-23: The last hurrah

Thapa kept his best for his last season in Chennaiyin FC colours as he led the side by example under Thomas Brdaric who instilled a more proactive brand of football at Chennaiyin FC. The midfielder adapted quickly to the new demands and scored four goals and provided four assists in all competitions and was one of Chennaiyin FC’s best players. 

Thapa will leave Chennaiyin FC as a Hero ISL winner and has repaid the faith the club placed in him as a youngster. He has set an example of excellence at the Marina Machans for many budding footballers to follow and will always be remembered fondly on the terraces of the Marina Arena.