Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC on Thursday completed a major signing for the 2017-18 season by roping in Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has ended his three year-stint with Norwegian first division side Stabaek FC for a one-year contract.
The Blues completed the official paperwork in time for Gurpreet to be part of the 2017 AFC Cup campaign. He will be available for selection for the home leg of the crucial Inter-Zonal semifinal against North Korean side April 25 SC on August 23.
Gurpreet, who was signed by BFC for an undisclosed transfer amount, this became the first Indian player to be signed from a European club by an Indian club in a move involving a transfer fee.
"I am 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," said Gurpreet who arrived in Bengaluru on Thursday.
"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.
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 an 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."
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 hope we can achieve something special," he said.
Turning pro in 2010 when 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.
Standing tall at 6 feet and 4 inches, Gurpreet moved to Europe as a 22-year-old, signing for Norwegian club Stabaek in August 2014 where he featured in a number of Cup games, including the entire 2016 Cup run.
He eventually made his League debut in May 2016 in an away match against IK Start, and in the process, became the first Indian footballer to play in a European top division League.
In June 2016, the Punjabi added another feather in his cap, becoming the first Indian footballer to feature in a UEFA Europa League match by playing against Welsh side Connah's Quay Nomads FC in the competition's qualifiers.
Having represented India (U-19 and U-22) numerous times at the youth level, Gurpreet was called up to the senior national team for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, and made his debut couple of months later in the AFC Challenge Cup.
After playing second fiddle to Subrata Paul, Gurpreet finally cemented his position as India's number one goalkeeper during the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers while even skippering the side on a few occasions....