Abdenasser El Khayati was a relatively unknown quantity when he joined the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), having signed for Chennaiyin FC ahead of the 2022-23 season. 

But fast forward ten matchweeks of the campaign, El Khayati is dominating the hearts, minds, and mobile screens of football lovers in India. The Dutch-Moroccan midfielder has scored some delightful goals, some of which are already contenders for goal of the season. With the box of tricks that he has displayed, it has won him many admirers far beyond Chennai. 

The 33-year-old has scored seven goals and provided four assists in six matches so far making him the top goalscorer in the season. In the assists charts, he is only behind Naorem Mahesh Singh of East Bengal FC, Dimitri Petratos of ATK Mohun Bagan, and Greg Stewart of Mumbai City FC. However, he has played fewer games than all the three players above him. 

His tally of seven goals in the first six matches is the best start any player has made in the league’s history in terms of scoring goals. 

Having played just 318 minutes so far, El Khayati averages a goal every 45.3 minutes in Hero ISL 2022-23 which almost equals scoring two goals every match. 

His numbers are quite staggering considering he is a central midfielder and not a striker. His shot conversion rate of 50% is incredible for a player playing his first few matches in a new league. Out of the nine shots he has landed on target so far, seven have ended up rippling the back of the net. 

He has also been a great creative force for Chennaiyin FC as he has created eight chances so far this season and has had 14 touches in the opponent’s box. With 11 goal contributions to his name already this season, he has delivered an assist or a goal every 29 minutes. 

If you take a look at the goals that he has scored, there is a lot of variety. He has scored some lovely long-range goals, while some have come at the end of silky dribbling runs. El Khayati has shown that he is adept at playing slightly deeper and arriving late in the box to get on the end of the cross as he did for his first goal against NorthEast United FC on Saturday. 

Khayati scored the first hat-trick of his Hero ISL career against the Highlanders to fire them to a 7-3 victory that took Chennaiyin FC within two points of the playoff places. 

Under new head coach Thomas Brdaric, the Marina Machans have had a scratchy start - winning four, losing four and drawing one. 

As El Khayati settles into the scheme of things and as Brdaric carves out a more defined role for him in his team, he will form the heartbeat of Chennaiyin FC’s playoff charge.