Gurpreet Singh Sandhu officially signed for Bengaluru FC on Thursday. But it could well have been Boavista FC. The India goalkeeper, who was with Norwegian team Stabaek, was close to joining the Portuguese first division side until the deal collapsed at the last minute.
With his contract with Stabaek expiring at the end of this year, Sandhu was on the lookout for another team in Europe. According to sources, he was in advanced talks with Porto-based Boavista, who finished ninth in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season. A transfer fee was being negotiated by Stabaek and Boavista, who had agreed to loan him to Bengaluru for the upcoming Indian Super League season. But there was a catch. The deal had to be worked out by August 16, which was the transfer deadline in Norway and also the final day for Bengaluru to submit an International Transfer Certificate to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to make Sandhu eligible for continental matches.
Sandhu had been in talks with Boavista for several weeks, but the club management was undecided. The team already had two goalkeepers on its permanent roster and a third, Brazilian custodian Wagner, was there on loan. That would have made Sandhu the team’s third or fourth-choice goalkeeper. There was disagreement over the transfer fee as well. Although the amount is unknown, sources said Boavista found Stabaek’s demand too high.
With time running out, Bengaluru FC stepped in. The club’s chief technical officer Mandar Tamhane met Stabaek officials and initiated the process to complete the direct transfer to Bengaluru instead of loaning him from Boavista. However, Bengaluru did not disclose the transfer fee they paid to Stabaek to get the deal.
“Gurpreet was supposed to be transferred from Stabaek to another European club, who were then going to loan him to us. But that transfer was taking time and our thing was time-bound,” Tamhane said.
“For Gurpreet to feature in the AFC Cup, we had to submit the International Transfer Certificate to the AFC by August 16 midnight. That was also the transfer deadline in Norway. So we directly signed him for a transfer fee.”
Sandhu, it is learnt, was keen to join Boavista but was ultimately lured by the prospect of getting regular match time at Bengaluru. The 25-year-old parted ways with Stabaek on Wednesday because he wasn’t getting enough playing time despite being the number 2 goalkeeper.
In Portugal, he would have been the third-choice goalie at best. With India all but assured of playing in the 2019 Asian Cup, Sandhu said it was critical for him to remain match fit. “I had an offer from another top-flight club in Europe but the need to play regularly ahead of the Asian Cup in 2019 was something that was on my mind,” he said. “With Bengaluru playing at the continental level this season as well as the next one, it will provide the perfect platform for me.”