Anirudh Thapa. Young, skillful, sharp and sublime. Watching the 24-year-old midfielder ply his trade on the football pitch is often a treat to the eye.

The dynamic midfielder is certainly among the more capable midfielders in India when it comes to controlling and distributing the ball. But his most underrated attribute is his mentality that makes him stand out among his more physically gifted players.

Just 24, Thapa was named the captain of Chennaiyin FC ahead of the Hero ISL 2021-22 season. Having made his mark for the club in their title-winning campaign in Hero ISL 2017-18, Thapa has quickly climbed the ladder to become one of Chennaiyin FC’s most important players.

For all his talent, it wasn’t an easy ride for the Dehradun-born midfielder. In Hero ISL 2016, he was only brought into the squad as a replacement for the injured Dhanachandra Singh. He played just one game for the Marina Machands before seeing himself go out on loan to Minerva Punjab.

Even after his return to Chennaiyin FC for Hero ISL 2017-18 season, Thapa had to wait till the third match to make an appearance on the pitch. But he made a positive impact having come on and head coach John Gregory made it a regular feature for the rest of the campaign.

Thapa’s entry often injected energy and creativity in team when the opponents were tired and the substitution worked well more often than not. In the semi-finals, Thapa scored the crucial away goal in their 1-1 draw in the first leg.

Since then Thapa has been seen as an integral part of the team by every coach that has followed at Chennaiyin FC and also with the Indian national team.

The 24-year-old was thus handed an extension by Chennaiyin FC on Friday that would keep him at the club till 2024.

Read: Chennaiyin FC extends Anirudh Thapa’s contract by two years

“Thapa came here young. And in that time, he’s won an ISL title, established himself as one of the best in the country and also captained Chennaiyin FC for a season. He’s made himself in Chennai. And now he will be one of the key players to make the future of Chennaiyin FC,” said Chennaiyin FC co-owner Vita Dani after Thapa put pen to paper to the extension.

From being a super sub, Thapa is now a role model in the team for the younger players and also for those who are elder to him. He earns the respect with his performances and is often Chennaiyin FC’s go-to man when the chips are down.

Thapa who has grown as a footballer and as a person at the club feels a special connection with Chennaiyin FC making their bond even stronger.

With 87 Hero ISL matches under his belt, Thapa is about to hit his peak and there is no surprise to see Chennaiyin FC securing his future at the clun.

Once just a young kid on the block who was dubbed as one for the future by Chennaiyin FC, Thapa is now core of their present. Many young players are handed the that tag of the being the next big thing but only a few of them live up to it.

Chennaiyin FC have known it all along and are now set to reap the benefits of placing faith in him when not everyone was ready to.

The Chennaiyin FC-Anirudh Thapa partnership is about to enter a new era and there’s every reason for the Super Machans to be excited.