The 25-year-old may be looking to play in the cash-rich league as a stop-gap option before trying his luck in Europe once again next season.

India No. 1 goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is set to play in the Indian Super League (ISL) and AFC Cup this season with JSW Group’s Bengaluru FC. The 25-year-old has completed his Norwegian voyage and parted ways with Stabaek Fotbal. The Punjab born lad had signed a three-year contract in 2014 with the club which was set to end in December, but looking at the situation, both clubs agreed amicably to allow the player to sign for the Blues. The Blues, though, did pay an undisclosed fee to the Norwegian club. Khel Now understands that this is the highest transfer fee ever paid for an Indian player.

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In one of the most shocking moves in Indian football in recent times, the well-known custodian will now amaze Indian audiences in general and the West Block Blues in particular with his superb displays under the bar. At the Norwegian club, junior goalkeeper Jacob Tredal is already being considered to fill his boots and Sayouba Mande looks set to continue in the No. 1 role. 

Sandhu had left East Bengal in 2014 to try his luck in Europe and had suffered a severe injury last season while he was slowly growing into the club’s No. 1. After his return, he replaced Sayouba Mande, Ivory Coast’s goalkeeper as the No. 1. Gurpreet had played four competitive games this season after his return, managing clean sheets in two of them.

Gurpreet was close to signing for Boavista FC, a club through which former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles came through, but the deal fell off due to a higher transfer amount wanted from Stabaek than expected. Mandar Tamhane, CTO of Bengaluru FC, directly spoke to Sporting Director of Stabaek Inge Andre Olsen to ensure the move is completed. Tamhane also convinced the owners at the club to pay the transfer fee and secure the services of the 25-year-old goalkeeper. 

Gurpreet said, ““I’m extremely delighted to have signed for Bengaluru FC. While the experience of playing in Europe was fantastic, lack of game time was an important factor in making the decision of moving back to India. I had an offer from another top-flight club in Europe, but the need to play regularly ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 was something that was on my mind.”

Unveiled in European style! Deserving!

“Singh has been a good person to have at the club and has developed a lot in his time at Stabæk. Now he has made a club change which I think will be good for him,” said Toni Ordinas, Stabaek Fotbal’s manager. The Norwegian transfer window closed on Wednesday and the signing was made before the deadline. The announcement, though, finally came out on Thursday as the club President Parth Jindal had promised in his tweet.

“The fact that Bengaluru FC was interested in me was encouraging considering what they have achieved over the last few years. With BFC playing on the continental level this season, as well as the next one, will provide the perfect platform for me,” he added.

Having already played in front of the Blues’ faithful on a number of occasions while representing India, Gurpreet is eager to take the field at the Fortress. “The fans here are fantastic. The atmosphere we had at the Kanteerava was unbelievable and probably one of the best I’ve seen. I’m now excited to be playing in front of them on a regular basis and hopefully, we can achieve something special.”

Turning pro in 2010 where he had a brief loan spell with AIFF’s developmental side Pailan Arrows (2010-11), Gurpreet returned to East Bengal, going on to become the first-choice custodian in the latter part of his three-year spell. At East Bengal, Gurpreet won the 2012 Federation Cup apart from topping the Calcutta Football League on numerous occasions.

Club CEO Parth Jindal was pleased with the Blues’ latest acquisition. “It’s a matter of pride that Gurpreet has chosen to play for BFC. For us, he as big as a European signing. His presence and leadership will add immense stability to the team. While he is with us we will provide him with all the support he needs to be back among Europe’s elite.”

Realistically speaking, Gurpreet could easily strengthen any side in Indian football at the moment, as the shot-stopper will be a home-grown option under the bar and the best one at that. Khel Now understands BFC were always his likely destination, as Lalruatthamawia Ralte is still too raw to take the duties in the league as well as the AFC Cup. It will be interesting to see how this move pans out for the goalkeeper in the future.