Former Leeds United forward Noel Whelan has shared a critical verdict on the Whites’ decision to allow Aapo Halme to join Barnsley in the summer after the Finland youth international began to show signs of progress at Oakwell.
Whelan offered his thoughts to Football Insider and suggested Marcelo Bielsa may even be regretting his decision to sanction Halme’s £400,000 transfer, as it has left the Elland Road natives short on cover in central defence after also allowing the West Yorkshire outfit’s under-23s to be ravished in the recent market.
Pontus Jansson was the big-name departure from United’s backline in the summer, while Hugo Diaz left West Yorkshire in the summer on a free transfer and joined Getafe’s B-team having captained the Whites’ under-23s, where he has started each Segunda Division fixture so far this term and helped them to two clean sheets (TransferMarkt).
Meanwhile, Halme has made eight outings in the Championship since moving to Barnsley and enjoyed his first goal for the Oakwell natives in a 2-2 draw with Derby County at the start of the month (WhoScored).
Whelan has now suggested Bielsa should have kept the five-cap Finland under-21 international at Elland Road, at least as cover for injuries or suspensions, as the decision to sell Halme has come back to haunt the Whites.
“Bielsa should not have let Halme go,” Whelan said. “He has been doing very well at Barnsley and is a promising young centre-back.
“We could do with him now, and it was a poor decision to let him go. I’m sure Bielsa will be thinking: ‘goodness, I shouldn’t have sold Halme, that was a big mistake’.
“We let a lot of centre-backs go in the summer, not just Pontus Jansson but from the Under 23s. Ben White has been a superb replacement for Jansson, but we didn’t need to let all the other defenders leave. It’s coming back to bite us a little bit.”
While Whelan has suggested Halme is showing signs of progress at Barnsley, the 21-year-old is not offering much reason for Bielsa to be regretting his call, even with Leeds now without Liam Cooper and potentially Gaetano Berardi through suspension.
Halme managed just three interceptions and six clearances as Barnsley were thumped 5-1 at Preston North End on Saturday, in a game where the Finland youth international did not register a single successful tackle for the fourth time this season (WhoScored).
The towering 6 ft 3 centre-half also misplaced 50% of his 34 attempted passes, which would cause Leeds vast problems had he been a part of Bielsa’s backline this term, where White has played more passes (720) than any other United man.
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