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Orange County SC sign former Real Madrid striker Eero Markkanen

Towering forward moves to California after well-traveled run in Europe.

Randers FC vs Silkeborg IF - Danish DBU Pokalen Cup Quarterfinal Photo by Lars Ronbog / FrontZoneSport via Getty Images

Orange County SC announced Friday they have signed forward Eero Markkanen ahead of the 2021 season.

The 29-year-old is a towering striker who has played for a variety of teams across Europe, and he’s a Finnish international.

“I think the fans of Orange County are going to be very excited with the addition of Eero,” said OCSC head coach Braeden Cloutier in a club statement. “He brings a wealth of international experience that is only matched by a few in this league. He is a big, strong central forward that can hold it up, link it, and score goals!”

Markkanen is a 6’6 forward who began his career in his native Finland in 2011, moving up the leagues at several clubs before moving abroad for the first time, to Swedish outfit AIK in 2014.

From there, Markkanen jumped up into the soccer stratosphere, signing with global powerhouse Real Madrid in 2014 and playing for the club’s reserve team. Unable to break through to the first team, Markkanen made global headlines when he was released at the start of the following season, Real Madrid’s reserve team manager at the time Zinedine Zidane claiming Markkanen was absurdly overweight coming into preseason camp. Even if that reason was rather dubious, Markkanen was on the move again, playing for clubs in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Indonesia.

Most recently, Markkanen played for FC Haka in the Finnish top flight. He’s also a Finland international, scoring a goal in 14 senior appearances.

“I’m very happy to join Orange County and I’m looking forward to next season. Can’t wait to meet my teammates and get to work,” said Markkanen.

The newcomer comes from an athletic family: His father Pekka played professional basketball in Europe and NCAA basketball at the University of Kansas, while his brother Lauri played NCAA basketball at the University of Arizona and is currently on the Chicago Bulls.

This is certainly an intriguing signing. Markkanen is the third player who most recently played in Finland to be signed by Orange County this offseason, and the club’s recent reinforcements look like a signal of intent after a season that came short of expectations. Markkanen has been a very well traveled player to date, but perhaps he’ll fall in love with Orange County and find his home. We’ll see what 2021 brings for him and the club.

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