It's certainly been a busy transfer window on both sides of the Oulu door as we approach the beginning of the Finnish Cup preliminary group stages. A few of last seasons key players have left the club but some equivalent talent has arrived during the transfer window.
In the arrivals department, it would have to be Spanish midfielder Javi Bueno
who steals the spotlight as the 23-year-old joins us on a free transfer following his Zamora contract expiry. He becomes our main central midfielder in the team and I'm sure he will make a real difference. However, our transfer window this year differs in philosophy from last seasons as we branch out our recruitment to snap up some youngsters who aren't yet at first-team level yet and will enter either our AC Oulu 2 team or the Under-20s.
The first came through the door in December 2019 in the form of Kjeld Sloth
. The goalkeeper joins from Danish 2nd division outfit Jammerbugt FC and after the release of starting keeper Matt Jones, Sloth may actually feature this season despite some arguing that he is not quite ready for top-flight football at the age of 18 years old. He has signed a deal until 2022 and I am certainly looking forward to seeing how he develops.
The second player through the Raatin Stadion's doors was the German central midfielder Jan Holldack
. The 23-year-old has been without a club for 6 months following his release from Bundesliga.2 side Uerdingen. A big prospect in his teens, Holldack was snapped up by Championship side Brentford from Cologne in 2015. After not receiving consistent football in his career, I am hoping to unleash his ability to our benefit this season.
As stated earlier, arguably our best signing of the winter was Spanish central midfielder Javi Bueno
who signs up until 2022. Last season, Bueno led Spanish third-tier side Zamora C.F. to promotion with 7 goals and 6 assists in 38 starts. His ability to score goals from midfield will be something I will be looking to exploit this season with a more attacking role for the 23-year-old player. Bueno becomes our highest paid player with an £800 per week wage.
I was looking to diversify my tactics this season rather than simply committing to playing with an attacking-midfielder, so Kalle Kauppi
comes to the club to fulfill a much-needed defensive midfield role which Jair occupied in our promotion season. He has excellent physical attributes and his ability to break up opposition attacks with his tackling and positioning will be extremely helpful this season.
Joining us all the way from England is left-winger Tony Hammond
as he arrives for a £3,500 fee from Vanarama National League side Solihull Moors. With the English season still ongoing, Hammond was starting to break into the first-team at Solihull with 3 league starts in recent games, and I am hoping to ease Hammond into my own first-team affairs despite Dylan Romein's dominance in his position. Although not the best player technically, Hammond is an extremely athletic player who I'm sure will be troubling to opponents if coming on for a final fifteen minutes of a game.
A certain starter on matchdays, Sebastian Dolivo
joins us on a free transfer following his relegation with former club Kotkan from the Veikkausliiga. The Finnish 23-year-old has been getting regular football in his past four seasons at KTP which is a big bonus to us and Dolivo is definitely a squad improvement from last season.
Solving our back-up problem at left-back is the incoming Tuomas Rannankari
. The 28-year-old has extremely valuable experience in the top division of Finnish football, after a five year stint at current Veikkausliiga holders Kuopion, followed by two years at Ilves FC in the top-flight and gaining a regular starting spot every season. Alongside this, Rannankari has made 2 appearances for the Finnish national squad and 10 for the U21 national squad. His experience will be vital in this young team.
Bought for just under £1,000 from our Scandinavian neighbours Norway, Preben Borve
signs from Norwegian side Fyllingsdalen. Despite his youth, Borve could prove to be a good first-team player this season if Joni Makela is required to have a back-up at any point. With impressive acceleration and work rate, Borve is definitely no pushover in this league.
Challenging Preben Borve in the right-wing youth department is fellow 17-year-old Norwegian winger Simen Westly
who joins Oulu on a free transfer from Hodd until 2022. Like Borve, Westly has great physical talent for a youngster as well as fantastic dribbling ability. He is certainly a contender for the right-wing spot if Makela is injured this campaign.
Perhaps one of the more underwhelming transfers, Swedish centre-back Martin Larsson
is certainly a work-in-progress. Despite decent mental and physical attributes, Larsson needs to work on his technical ability and strength if he is to become a contender for the first-team. He signs from Swedish outfit Hassleholm on £20 per week until 2022, giving him plenty of time to develop.
Moving onto this seasons departures, there are some key names leaving Raatin Stadion this season.
Firstly, we go through the list of released players who were let go at the end of their contracts at the beginning of December. After 70 appearances for the club, my first signing for Oulu - Matt Jones
- has departed the club. After a good first season in Ykkonen, Jones had a horrific season last term, conceding 73 league goals in just 33 league games which was enough evidence to show that the 33-year-old was not up to required standard.
Other key names are David Ramadingaye
(99 apps, 30 goals), Josue Soto
(71 apps, 7 goals), Juuso Kemppainen
(72 apps, 4 goals) and Aleksi Gullsten
(63 apps, 10 goals) who were all pivotal parts of previous campaigns.
However, it was the departure of Safwan Mbae
who got people talking. Mbae signed for us as my second signing for the club in 2018 and was a class act at the back ever since. He made 59 appearances for us in all competitions and was a huge part in our promotion side. However, after last season he was tapped up by Palermo, I rejected a £120,000 offer from the Serie A club, but after Mbae showed his unhappiness at the rejection I simply had to accept the next £200,000 offer that came in for the Frenchman.
followed Mbae out of the door as he was signed by Finnish lower division side PS Kemi Kings for £1,200 two days later.
Finally perhaps the most shocking development of the transfer window (so far!) was the unbelievable offers that came in for José Vicente Solbes
. The Spaniard is still only 16 years old but Solbes signed for Premier League side Crystal Palace for a crazy fee of £275,000 after the London club and Brentford both battled it out for the youngster on the English deadline day. Solbes made 11 appearances for us last season (3 starts), and scored 2 goals after signing on a free transfer from Santa Pola.
Financially, the departures have massively helped us. Before the new year, the club were in the red by £115,000. With the help of £476,200 recuperated from player sales and a huge £325,000 main kit sponsorship, followed up by an even bigger £400,000 stadium sponsorship, we are now in the black with a balance of £815,000 following over £1million made in profit this season.
It has been a spectacular financial turnaround this winter and we are comfortably in the black. This has meant that the club have agreed to accept my request that we buy the Raatin Stadion from the council to stop having to pay rent in the future. The plans have been set out and it is expected we will have full ownership of our stadium by the end of this coming season.