Finnish goalkeeper Jaakkola joins Kilmarnock
Mixu Paatelainen adds to his goalkeeping options, swooping to pick up his countryman from Slavia Prague.
Anssi Jaakkola has agreed to join Kilmarnock, sealing a switch from Slavia Prague to move to Rugby Park. The Finnish goalkeeper has signed a two and a half year contract with the SPL club.
Jaakkola had a brief trial period with Mixu Paatelainen's team earlier this month, having been told he could leave the Czech side after slipping down the pecking order to become third choice at the Synot Tip Arena. The player did enough to impress the coaching staff in Ayrshire, who have now moved to make him their first signing of the January transfer window.
The 23-year-old only moved to Prague in the summer from Italian side AC Siena, signing a two year contract. But the departure of Karel Jarolim as Slavia boss in September saw him lose his place in the team to 40-year-old Martin Vaniak, with Zdenek Zlamal preferred as second choice.
Former Rangers and Hearts goalkeeper Antti Niemi is believed to have informed Paatelainen of Jaakkola's potential, with the 38-year-old now working as a goalkeeping coach for the Finnish national team.
Jaakkola started his career in his homeland with TP-47 and had a brief spell on loan last year at Italian fourth tier club V.F. Colligiana. He is yet to be capped for his country but earned a call up to the full national team in August this year for games against Moldova and Holland, replacing St Johnstone's Peter Enckleman in the squad.
Hailing from the Finnish city of Kemi, a town in Lapland, Jaakkola also played ice hockey as a youngster.. Speaking upon his signing for Slavia earlier this year, he commented: “I had to choose between the two. I chose football and I have never regretted that decision.”
Kilmarnock currently have three goalkeepers on their books, with current first choice Cammy Bell having recently earned a Scotland cap in the friendly win over Faroe Islands in November.
Alan Combe is currently injured and has six months left to run on his contract, with Welsh keeper Kyle Letheren also committed until the end of the season.
Since taking over at Rugby Park in the close season, Killie manager Paatelainen has rejuvenated a squad which only stayed in the Scottish Premier League on the final day of last campaign, when Falkirk failed to defeat them in a relegation decider.
Finland international Alexei Eremenko, currently on loan from Metalist Kharkiv, has proved a revelation in midfield while fellow loanee Ben Gordon, club captain Craig Bryson and top goalscorer Conor Sammon have all shone under Paatelainen's leadership.
The former Hibernian manager though has spoken of his fears over losing some of his prized assets in the forthcoming January window, conceding the form which has lifted his team to fourth in the SPL will have alerted potential suitors.
“There's been speculation about one or two of the players at Kilmarnock, so if we lose them and they decide to move on then I think the work will have been done by us in terms of making them better players,” he said.
“Obviously, I would look to keep my better players because we want to maintain the progress we are making, but that is the nature of football.
“Players come and players go. Should that happen then we would look to bring in more players and look to develop them as well.”