National football team goalkeeper Subrata Paul is set to become the first Indian player to join a first division side in Europe as he has been offered a six-month contract by Danish top tier club FC Vestsjaelland.
Paul has been offered a contract for the period from January 1 to June 30 next year by Danish Superliga side FC Vestsjaelland, also known as FC Vikings, after a three-week trial stint with the club recently.
Paul said that he would now seek a release on loan from IMG-Reliance with which he has a two-year contract for the proposed Indian Super League.
"I had gone for a three-week trial at FC Vestsjaelland from October 20 onward and I was offered a six-month contract by the club before I left Denmark. The head coach and goalkeeping coach told me they liked my performance," Paul said from Kolkata.
"My dream to play in a top European club has come true and I am going to sign the contract in a few days. I will now approach IMG-Reliance to release me on loan to join FC Vestsjaelland. I think it will be just a formality," said 26-year-old Paul who has earned 67 India caps.
"I thank IMG-Reliance, Anglian Holdings and Red Bull for arranging the trial stint at FC Vestsjaelland."
Paul will become the first Indian footballer to join a top tier side in Europe. Before him, former captain Bhaichung Bhutia had played for English Championship (second tier) side FC Bury from 1999-2002 before current national team skipper Sunil Chhetri joined the reserved team of Sporting Lisbon Club of Portugal last year before ending his contract this year.
Paul hoped that the Denmark opportunity would open up further chances to ply his trade in other European clubs.
"I want to do well at FC Vestsjaelland so that I can aim to join top tier clubs like FC Red Bull Salzburg (Austrian Bundesliga) and New York Red Bulls (Major League Soccer)," he said.
While Paul was in Denmark for his trial stint, there was a move to loan him from IMG-Reliance to Shillong based I-League side Rangdajied United but he said he had not signed the deal.
"I have not signed the loan deal with Rangdajied United. The plan was there but in the meantime, I got this offer from FC Vestsjaelland. So I will now get a release on loan from IMG-Reliance to join FC Vestsjaelland," said Paul who had gone to FC Vestsjaelland for the trial with India defender Gouramangi Singh.
Paul has been trying to get into a foreign club for some time. He first had a short trial stint at MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps in 2010 before another try at the RB Leipzig, a German fourth division side, in 2012.
The six-foot-one-inch goalkeeper played a major role in India's Nehru Cup wins in 2007 and 2009 as well as the AFC Challenge Cup triumph in 2008 under then English coach Bob Houghton.
FC Vestsjaelland currently occupy seventh spot in the 12-team Superliga midway into the season.
Image: Subrata Paul
Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters