CHENNAI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s sojourn in Norwegian football, that saw him become the first Indian to start a European top division game and a Europa League game, is over. The news was confirmed by his club Stabaek, who issued a press release saying the same.
Sandhu, whose contract with Stabaek was up at the end of the season, struggled to get minutes at the club, having to compete for the No 1 spot with Sayouba Mande, who was in Ivory Coast’s 2014 World Cup squad. And that, according to Stabaek, was the reason he chose to cut short his time with the club. “Gurpreet Singh Sandhu wants more playtime and returns to Indian football. He is now traveling to India where there are new challenges awaiting,” the Stabaek statement said.
“The 25-year-old got his debut for Stabaek against Start in 2015, and became the first Indian football player at the top level in Europe. Singh played 9 matches for Stabæk and 39 matches for Stabæk 2.”
Gurpreet also commented on the move in a short video posted on the club website.
“First of all I want to thank Stabaek for what they have provided me,” he said.
“It has been an incredible experience. I will never forget what I have done here. On the other hand, I am excited for my next destination. I am looking forward to joining them and doing well over there.”
Gurpreet’s rise since departing for Stabaek in 2014 has been meteoric. When he left, he was yet to play a game for the national team, but such was his development at Stabaek that he is now regarded as the national team’s best player and has already captained the team on occasions.
In action next week, Gurpreet’s next club is likely to be Bengaluru FC. While there has been no official comment from the club, the player himself all but confirmed his next destination. “My new team is supposed to playing their competition next week and I am looking forward to joining them and preparing for that,” he said.
Bengaluru will be in action against North Korean club April 25 on August 23. The only other prominent Indian clubs in action next week are the two Kolkata clubs in the Calcutta Football League, but it is highly unlikely that Gurpreet, arguably the most sought-after Indian footballer after Sunil Chhetri, will settle for anything outside the Indian Super League.
The signing might even be announced on Thursday with Bengaluru’s CEO Parth Jindal hinting at the same on Twitter. “Are you ready for the biggest news yet? It involves a player and is someone who adds immensely to our team,” he tweeted. “Announcement will happen tomorrow (Thursday) but trust me it’s a big one - I wouldn’t be tweeting otherwise.”