It was not much of a secret that Jeje Lalpekhlua was on his way out at Chennaiyin FC. There has been speculation over a move away from the South Indian club ever since the 2019-20 season for Jeje saw him being sidelined with an injury.
As such, there wasn't much shock and awe when the Mizoram-born forward did announce his departure from a club with which his name had become synonymous.
But that feeling of inevitability does not diminish the enormity of what he has actually achieved with the club.
Yes, he played no part in the 2019-20 season where Chennaiyin reached the final of the Indian Super League (ISL) where they were trumped by ATK, thanks to a troublesome knee injury that has kept him out of action for a quite a while.
However, his contribution ever since the first edition of the ISL has been nothing but exemplary, so much so that the Chennaiyin fans absolutely adore Jeje. Ever since, Chennaiyin brought him on loan from Mohun Bagan in 2014, he has been the poster boy for Chennaiyin FC.
In 2015, he would sign a permanent contract with the club and there was no looking back as he helped the club embark on a successful period that brought about two ISL titles.
The diminutive India international has come up with goals whenever the club has needed them in the past, playing key roles in their two title triumphs. He has played a sidekick role alongside illustrious overseas forwards like Stiven Mendoza, Davide Succi and more when asked.
However, the 29-year-old has also led the lines with aplomb when he has been asked to. Case in point, the 2017-18 season under John Gregory where he led the attack with distinction as Chennaiyin won the title.
In short, Jeje has been the perfect team player, serving the club with utmost distinction. Let's take a look at his numbers for the club.
He has made 74 appearances for the club in all competitions over six years, the most by an Indian player for the Marina Machans. He has scored 24 goals for the club with 23 of them coming in the ISL. Jeje is their record highest goalscorer and is second highest Indian on the all-time ISL goalscorers' list too.
He was the top Indian goalscorer in the ISL in 2014, as the club reached the play-offs. When Chennaiyin won their first ISL trophy in 2015, Jeje was named the ISL Emerging Player of the Year. Jeje was outshadowed in attack by Mendoza but still managed to score six goals.
Though he saw his playing time limited in 2016 where the club had a forgetful campaign, he still scored three goals. He bounced back with his most productive season in the Chennaiyin blue in 2017-18, where he racked up nine strikes to his name.
The 2018-19 season was one to forget, with Jeje contributing just one goal. However, the entire team underperformed massively in that campaign. He would not make an appearance in the 2019-20 season due to an injury and a subsequent surgery but that would so not define Jeje's stint in Chennai.
The Mizo Sniper will most definitely look back at his time in South India with utmost pride, having forged a legacy adorned with goals and silverware. The feeling will be mutual for the club and its fans as well.
The club has new posterboys and fan favourites like Anirudh Thapa and Edwin Vanspaul who look set to be the face of the club in the wake of Jeje's exit. But a tinge of nostalgia will definitely hit the Chennaiyin fans when Jeje gets down on one knee to pull out his 'sniper' after scoring for whichever club he next chooses to join.
And that is his legacy!