Bengaluru FC numero uno Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is not having any off days after the culmination of the 2022-23 season.

The two-time Hero Indian Super League (ISL) Golden Boot winner has travelled to Oslo to get some pre-season minutes with his former club Stabaek Fotball just a few days after securing the SAFF Championship title with India. His stint at the Norwegian side didn’t go unnoticed as the shot-stopper was wanted by the club earlier this year whilst the Hero ISL was under way.

Gurpreet, however, penned down a five-year extension with the Blues, indicating his desire to stay with the club. 

"The plan was to do it (go to Norway), but it just didn't happen logistically. Obviously, I would have loved to come back here (to Stabaek) and spend at least one or two seasons,” Gurpreet said in an interaction with ESPN.

One of the main drawbacks for his move to not materialise was the major dissimilarity of the duration of the two leagues.

"The season over here works out very differently from how it is everywhere else. Over here the pre-season starts mid-Jan and it goes till mid-March and then the league starts from end of March till December first week,” the goalkeeper explained. 

“During that time, I was with BFC, and we were winning game-after-game-after-game, we were very close to going to the playoffs and I thought 'this is something I can do, but maybe after the Hero ISL finishes...' because I have to respect where I was," he further added.

While Gurpreet might be in the exclusive list of Indians to have played for a European side, he certainly isn’t the only one who has taken up that challenge. The likes of Sunil Chhetri, Bhaichung Bhutia have been down that route, with his national teammate Sandesh Jhingan being the latest person to feature for a European side.

As promising as it sounds, the reality of playing in Europe is far too different, adds Gurpreet. 

"The truth behind it... I've played in Europe. I know how it works, it's not very easy to just come here. It's not like everyone is getting an offer from Europe to come over here. Even when you come here, you need to prove yourself [before] you get a contract. We are not at a stage where European football is looking at us and are like... 'we want that player.' We have a long way to go,” he says.

Spending close to four years with Stabaek, the custodian racked up only 11 appearances where he kept six clean sheets and conceded 10 goals. Appreciative of his time at Stabaek, he feels players need to gain more ground in terms of developing themselves, starting from an early age.

“If a young player gets the opportunity to go outside, I'm sure they will consider it. No one sits here and (does) not consider it. But it's just that the players that we are talking about... it might be too late for them, and they understand it. If you're 15-16-17, max till 19-20, you can do it, you can try it. But after 20, it's just difficult. 20 sounds very young but in footballing terms for an outfield player, it is old, trust me," he signed off.