Former Chennaiyin FC and Jamshedpur FC striker Nerijus Valskis officially announced his retirement on Monday, culminating a remarkable career that included a stint in the Indian Super League (ISL).

Before making his move to Indian shores in 2019 with Chennaiyin FC, the 36-year-old Lithuanian striker spent the majority of his playing career in his home country, Lithuania. He also plied his trade in countries such as Romania, Poland, Israel, and Thailand.

Valskis enjoyed three seasons in the ISL, enjoying a successful campaign with Chennaiyin FC during the 2019-20 season before moving to Jamshedpur FC in 2020. He made a return to Chennaiyin FC midway through the 2021-22 season, marking his final season in India. Following this, he moved back to Lithuania to join Kauno Zalgiris.

Despite coming close to winning the ISL Cup during the 2019-20 season, Valskis had a successful and memorable stint in India. Currently, he stands as Chennaiyin FC’s second-highest joint top scorer in the league and is also Jamshedpur FC’s third-highest joint top scorer.

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With that, we reflect on someone of his memorable moments from his time in India.

Scoring his first ISL goal in an iconic win for Chennaiyin FC 

Valskis marked his debut goal for Chennaiyin FC in a thrilling encounter, securing a dramatic 2-1 victory against Hyderabad FC. The match unfolded as one of the most captivating comebacks in the league's history, with all the goals materialising in injury time. Initially, Andre Schembri's goal was cancelled out by Matthew Kilgallon, intensifying the suspense. In those crucial moments, Valskis exhibited remarkable composure, displaying nerves of steel to net the decisive winner. This pivotal goal not only broke his goal drought but also sealed Chennaiyin FC's first win of the season. 

The triumph held additional significance as it ended a seven-game winless streak for Chennaiyin FC, dating back 289 days to the 2018-19 season. Valskis' late heroics marked a turning point, injecting newfound momentum into Chennaiyin FC's campaign.

Helping Chennaiyin FC reach the 2019-20 final

Valskis emerged as a crucial figure during the playoffs, playing a pivotal role in Chennaiyin FC's journey to the final. His impact was evident in both semi-final clashes against FC Goa that season. In the first leg, a resounding 4-1 victory for Chennaiyin FC, Valskis contributed with an assist, showcasing his playmaking ability. The second leg saw him find the back of the net, even though FC Goa secured a 4-2 win on the day. However, Chennaiyin FC advanced to the final on aggregate.

The final pitted Chennaiyin FC against ATK FC, and Valskis once again showcased his prowess in big games. Trailing 2-0, he scored a vital goal for Chennaiyin FC, displaying his knack for finding the net when it mattered most. Despite his goal, Chennaiyin FC ultimately succumbed to ATK FC, with the Kolkata side capitalising on their chances to secure victory.

Despite the final loss, Valskis' contributions throughout the season were integral to Chennaiyin FC's remarkable journey. Bouncing back from a struggling position in the bottom half of the table, the team scripted some extraordinary victories en route to the final. Valskis' goals played a crucial role in the team's resurgence, leaving an indelible mark on Chennaiyin FC's memorable season.

Winning the Golden Boot

Valskis faced a period of adaptation upon entering the ISL, grappling with a goal drought in his initial four matches. However, a turning point came with his goal against Hyderabad FC, marking the beginning of a remarkable resurgence. Valskis swiftly found his stride, displaying consistency and playing a pivotal role in his team's comeback during that season.

Across 20 games in the campaign, Valskis showcased his quality by notching an impressive 15 goals. Notably, in four of Chennaiyin FC’s league games that season, he scored a brace in each. His impact was so profound that, during the league stage, Chennaiyin FC remained undefeated in every game where Valskis found the back of the net.

The culmination of Valskis' exceptional season saw him finishing with the same goal tally as other prominent strikers, namely Roy Krishna and Bartholomew Ogbeche. However, Valskis secured the coveted Golden Boot award based on a superior goals-to-minutes ratio.

Scoring on his debut for Jamshedpur FC against Chennaiyin FC

The Lithuanian striker made an impactful start at his new club, Jamshedpur FC, hitting the ground running by scoring in his debut game. Notably, this goal came against his former club, Chennaiyin FC. However, despite Valskis' contribution, Jamshedpur FC found themselves on the losing side, succumbing to a 1-2 defeat in that fixture.

In the subsequent game, Valskis continued to showcase his goal-scoring prowess by netting a brace, exemplifying his potency in front of goal. However, unlike the stellar consistency displayed during the 2019-20 season, Valskis encountered challenges in replicating that form with Jamshedpur FC throughout the 2020-21 season. 

Valskis concluded the season with a tally of eight goals from 18 games, marking a notable decrease compared to his prolific performance in the previous season. Despite his individual success as the club’s highest scorer that season, Jamshedpur FC faced difficulties in securing a playoff berth.

In a twist of fate, Valskis made a return to Chennaiyin FC during the January window in the 2021-22 season. However, that season proved underwhelming by his own high standards, as he managed to score just four goals. He returned to Lithuania after the end of the season.

Despite a less-than-ideal conclusion to his career in India, Valskis' legacy in Indian football remains significant, leaving an indelible mark on the teams he represented during his ISL tenure.