S Venkatesh: Jhingan and Thapa are good enough to play abroad

The Indian national team’s current assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh believes that it is the right time for Sandesh Jhingan and Chennaiyin FC midfielder Anirudh Thapa to ply their trade at an international club. Both Jhingan and Thapa have become integral members of the Indian national team, and the Blue Tigers’ assistant coach is of the opinion that the duo has what it takes to play abroad.  

“I strongly feel this is the right time for him (Jhingan) to go and play outside (India). It's a big surprise that he is still playing in India. Whatever Sandesh has achieved so far is entirely because of his hard work. Not only Sandesh, but also (Anirudh) Thapa has the potential to play outside India. They are good enough,” Venkatesh said during an All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) Instagram Live session. “Sandesh is a committed player and wants to play every game. He is a fighter and is up for everything. He is a leader and very patient. We need characters like him in the (national) team," he later added.

However, while urging players to test themselves outside India, Venkatesh was keen to reiterate that going abroad did not necessarily mean playing in Europe. "By mentioning outside India, I am not always hinting at European leagues. I only hope eight-nine players go out and play maybe in the J-League, the league in the UAE, the K-League, or elsewhere," he said.

The Indian assistant coach feels that the exposure in foreign leagues will be useful towards the development of the national team, Venkatesh said, "There are many players with great potential. When people ask how we can make the Indian team better — I would say that more players should play for clubs outside India. Everyone wants to see how we can improve. If these boys go out, they'll learn and that'll, in turn, help the national team (improve).”

To further substantiate his argument on the benefits of playing abroad, assistant coach Venkatesh also pointed at the development of India’s first-choice custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has won two consecutive Golden Glove awards in the last two seasons of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL).

The Bengaluru FC shot-stopper spent a few years at Norwegian club Stabaek before moving to the Hero ISL and Venkatesh feels that he has gained a lot from his stint abroad. "You need to look at Gurpreet and the manner he has improved after playing in Europe. The knowledge a player gets playing outside is immense," he opined.

While reminiscing about his days as a player, Venkatesh bemoaned not making the most of his opportunity to play abroad, he said, "Mahesh (Gawli), Jules (Alberto), myself, we all received offers to play outside (of India). I had an offer from a J-League second division club. But somehow, I didn't take the plunge. We lacked adequate knowledge."

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