The last Flying Finn was a generation or two before, indeed he was from a different sport entirely, but if young Lassi Lappalainen goes on to achieve even half the level of acclaim of the former, he’ll be doing ok.
He shares the same christian name (although varied spelling) as the great Lasse Viren, Finland’s double Olympic Champion distance runner of 1972, but there the similarities end.
The youngster has been setting tongues wagging in the Veikkausliiga (Finland’s top division) for a couple of seasons now, and at 20, is ready for the next stage in a budding career.
His footballing education has not been unlike that of Impact’s current Finnish international, Jukka Raitala, each starting their careers off at the country’s biggest club HJK Helsinki, having both come through the third tier reserve team Klubi-04.
After making a handful of appearances for HJK in 2017, Lappalainen was loaned out for two seasons to rival Veikkausliiga club, RoPS, from the Lapland city of Rovaniemi, half a dozen miles from the Arctic Circle.
Coincidentally, someone coming from Lapland gets referred to as a Lappalainen, to the letter, the exact family name of Impact’s potential new winger. He must’ve fitted in quite well!
Things went well for Lassi in Lapland, helping RoPS to a runner-up spot in the Championship last season, behind his parent club HJK, and scoring 8 goals in 26 league games.
His return to Helsinki in 2019 has coincided with a downturn in the fortunes of RoPS, currently involved in a relegation scrap to protect their Veikkausliiga status.
During his first season up north he appeared in the Europa League against Welsh Premier League club, Connah’s Quay, and has since followed up very recently, attaining some Champions League qualifying experience with HJK.
Drawn against HB Torshavn from the Faroe Islands, Lappalainen claimed a brace as HJK strolled to a 3-0 success at home. Things were much closer in the return however, Lappalainen’s last game in the blue and white of HJK.
With his transfer to Bologna due to conclude next day and looking comfortable, HJK left him on the bench for the return. It almost backfired and trailing 0-1 at half-time the youngster was introduced along with Riku Riski. HJK would go a second goal behind before the effects of the double substitution kicked in, Riski scoring twice to tie things up.
HJK now play Crvena Zvezda (older fans will remember this club as Red Star Belgrade) in the second qualifying round in six days time, a match that Lappalainen will of course miss.
International recognition has come the player’s way, and with 5 caps to his name, he’s now established as part of Finland’s promising Euros qualifying campaign, as they attempt to reach the finals of a major tournament for the first time in the country’s history.
Lappalainen has played in each of the last three internationals, emerging as a sub, against both Italy in Udine (L0-2), and Bosnia & Herzegovina (W2-0) in Tampere. He started in the game sandwiched between those, a 2-0 success over Lichtenstein in Vaduz.
Tall for a winger at 1.83m, Lappalainen is quick with a trick or two, and can beat players in a one to one situation. He shows good awareness, is predominantly right-footed and looks a decent prospect who can play coming in from either left or right.
Should he, if expected, wind up at Stade Saputo, it could spell an exit for Harry Novillo, who could be deemed surplus to requirements. Lappalainen, while not an out and out striker, would provide competition for the attacking players at the Impact, or perhaps add some creativity in midfield.
What Bologna have bought, 300,000 Euros is the figure being touted as the compensation HJK received for the player, is potential, although it is a player now established with his national team.
Remi Garde will be hoping to turn that promise into something tangibly productive in the coming months.