Interview: Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu doesn't rule out a potential Premier League move
The Stabaek stopper is aiming to make a leap into the European elite.
The Premier League has been a bridge too far for Indian footballers, but that hasn’t stopped the country’s number one goalkeeper from aiming for the skies.
Despite being Ivorian Sayouba Mande’s understudy at Norwegian top flight club Stabaek and not starting a single Tippeligaen match this season, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu believes in the work he puts in day in day out that will someday lead him to football’s elite.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Gurpreet opened up on his possibilities of moving to one of the top five leagues in Europe. “Not very far [from the elite level of European football] I think. I believe in my work and my ability, and if I’m given a full season to show myself, I think I can make it,” he said..
Gurpreet hasn’t had a sustained run of starts at Stabaek, but he has done fairly well in the limited number of games he has played. Stabaek have won four of the five Norwegian Football Cup matches Gurpreet has started since 2015.
The 25-year-old, who made history last year by becoming the first Indian to play a top division league game in Europe, had his headline moment in the Europa League cut short. In a first qualifying round tie of this season’s Europa League, Gurpreet started in goal for Stabaek against Welsh club Connah’s Quay, but his maiden European outing lasted only 29 minutes as he went off injured.
Therefore, the lad from Punjab is wary of getting carried away with the success he has had so far in his career.
Despite playing in Norway for the past two-and-a-half years, Gurpreet feels he is far from established in European football, emphasising the unpredictability of the sport. He has already tasted that on his Europa League debut, hence the hint of prudence in his words.
“I don’t think anyone can say that they are well established anywhere because you never know what will happen in football, injuries or a bad run if you're unlucky. So you can’t take things lightly when you’re trying to strive at a higher level.
“If things don’t go the way I want, which usually has been the case, anything can happen,” he added.
Gurpreet sparked interest from Everton before joining Stabaek in 2014, and it is only a matter of time until other Premier League clubs are alerted to his talents.
Amid the global business of football, not everything tends to be black and white in the sport. The huge money involved in transfers makes for a lot of information kept under wraps, the disclosure of which could have huge ramifications.
When asked whether any Premier League club registered an interest in him, Gurpreet went typical coy about it, instead hinting at the possibility of that with any confirmation.
“Maybe there are [Premier League clubs interested], maybe there are not,” he said, preferring to keep things anonymous.
While he continues to strive towards his goal of playing regular first team football at Stabaek, Gurpreet, like any talented player of his age, will court interest from other clubs. It is his desire to keep working and not rest on laurels which set the shot-stopper apart.
He gave an honest assessment of how Indian players are spurning chances to play in Europe. In the current Indian national team, Gurpreet is the only player to be contracted to a European club which is a state the custodian believes can improve in the future, given there isn’t a lack of talent in India.
“Chances [of seeing Indian players playing regularly in European leagues] are big if serious talented young players are willing to take the step and with that if someone is guiding them correctly. I have seen some good talented youngsters who could have done something outside India if they had tried, but they still choose to play in India, the longer they play there the older they get which makes their chances slimmer. That’s the harsh reality.”
Gurpreet's journey to Stabaek and Europa League football is a story that inspires many an Indian footballer. His perspective on why there is a dearth of Indian players playing regularly in European leagues presents an idea of how to make the step up to a higher level of football.
A future Premier League player or not, Gurpreet is already one of the biggest stars of Indian football. It isn’t every day that Everton are interested in an Indian player, but that is a product of the work he has put in throughout his career. At 25 and for a goalkeeper, Gurpreet has many years ahead of him.
His career trajectory from starting at the St. Stephen’s School Academy in Chandigarh to lining up for a Europa League game in Wales gives an indication that there is more to come from the India international. It seems like the sky is the limit for Gurpreet.