LEEDS UNITED have continued to build for the future by signing Finland’s under-19s centre-back Aapo Halme from HJK Helsinki for the club’s development squad.
The Whites say the defender will initially join up with Carlos Corberan’s Under-23s with the view to stepping up to the first team in the coming months.
Six-foot-four defender Halme was in high demand with a series of clubs looking to seal the 19-year-old’s signature after he helped his side romp to the Finnish League title.
But the centre-back has opted to join the Whites with the teenager joining United on a four-year deal for an undisclosed fee.
Halme had one year left on his contract at HJK and the YEP understands that Leeds struck a deal to land his services for a fee lower than the ‘close to £500,000’ quoted in the Finnish media.
Helsinki-born Halme played for both FC Honka and Klubi-04 before joining dominant Finnish force HJK in 2015.
The defender made 13 appearances last season as HJK romped to the Veikkausliiga title and the centre-back has been capped for both Finland’s under-19s and under-17s.
The centre-back also featured 14 times for HJK the previous season as they finished second.
Halme will now link up with United’s under-23s though there is a possibility that the defender could be called into head coach Thomas Christiansen’s first-team squad for Sunday’s third round FA Cup tie at League Two outfit Newport County.
Halme is not immediately expected to challenge for a first-team place but Christiansen looks intent on making plenty of changes to his side for the Cup clash at Rodney Parade.
Leeds are also expected to complete and formally announce the signing of Japanese international midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi from Gamba Osaka this month.
Ideguchi will then head out on loan in order to gain a work permit and the 21-year-old is widely expected to challenge for a first-team place next season.
Leeds sit sixth in the Championship table, six points behind the division’s automatic promotion places and one ahead of those teams outside of the play-offs, headed by seventh-placed Sheffield United.
The Whites will return to league action a week on Saturday at 12th-placed Ipswich Town.