As Indian football fans prepare to bid farewell to their irreplaceable son, Sunil Chhetri, it is only fitting that we look back at some of the moments that have defined his illustrious career. Chhetri has been the very soul of Indian football, outshining any other with his outstanding ability to score goals. His retirement marks the end of an era, and what better way to keep his greatness alive than to remember, celebrate, and revive his most prolific years? 

Let's look at the top five years in which Chhetri's goal-scoring feats reached their zenith: 2011, 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2023.

2011: His best-ever year 

Goals Scored: 13

2011 turned out to be a tremendous year for Sunil Chhetri on the international stage. He firmly cemented his reputation as the number one striker of India. He scored an impressive 13 goals, making it by far his best year in terms of goals scored. Some of their impressive performances this year made him entirely instrumental for India in the SAFF Championship, where his goals were crucial for India's success, his ability to find the net almost at will being a cornerstone of attacking strategy.

SAFF Championship: Chhetri, however, proved to be a big hand in contributing toward four goals to the championship tally by India.

AFC Asian Cup: If this was a proving ground for India, then finally, this was him proving his worth on the bigger stage, scoring against Bahrain.

2018: The Year of Milestones

Goals Scored: 8

Now, let's not get things wrong. 2018 was the year for Chhetri. Goal-heavy, many to his name, and record-rich, with the man still active and right behind Cristiano Ronaldo as the second-highest international goal-scorer.

Intercontinental Cup: Chhetri scored a hat-trick against Chinese Taipei, and he further added to the scores, and India won the tournament.

Friendly Matches: His display in the friendly matches served to confirm his status as a goal-poacher-cum forward.

2019: The Consistent Performer

Goals Scored: 7

In what has been a very fruitful last couple of years, Chhetri again maintained his spree of goals from previous years in 2019. All these strikes came under crucial games, and those goals made a difference between India being competitive and not.

AFC Asian Cup: The striker scored two goals in the continental event, with a brace against Thailand proving vital. However, despite a win in their opener, they crashed out of the knockout stages. 

World Cup Qualifiers and Friendlies: Chhetri’s goals in these matches not only saved India's campaign but also served as an excellent reminder of his excellence. 

2021: Leading by Example

Goals Scored: 8

The defining achievement that Chhetri in the year 2021 was that he was leading from the front, as a captain and a marksman, now with experience and skill as a masterly mixture.

SAFF Championship: He was a consistent performer as usual, and his goals were essential to get India to yet another triumph.

FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Chhetri scored key goals against teams like Bangladesh and Nepal, helping India secure vital points.

2023: The Ageless Wonder

Goals Scored: 9

In 2023, Chhetri showed that age is just a number, so long as he kept playing at the level he was. While there were doubts about his capability, here was Chhetri scoring essential goals for India and showing his fitness and skill.

SAFF Championship: The hat trick he scored against Pakistan would be one of the high points of his year, where he epitomised his consistency in scoring goals.

Friendlies and Tournaments: He stood out in the roster, participating in numerous friendlies and tournaments and demonstrating remarkable dedication to the team.