Sunderland AFC is delighted to announce the signing of Aji Alese for an undisclosed fee.
The central defender moves to the Stadium of Light from West Ham United and signs an initial three-year deal, with a Club option of a further year.
Alese has represented England at every level from Under-16 to Under-20 and has also gained valuable senior experience on loan with Accrington Stanley and Cambridge United.
The 21-year-old joined the Hammers aged eight and rapidly rose through the Club’s academy system, making his Under-18 debut in 2017 whilst still a schoolboy.
Alese signed his first professional contract 12 months later and was the recipient of The Dylan Tombides Award during the 2018-19 season, which is given annually to the Academy’s outstanding Scholar.
Following a loan spell at the Wham Stadium in 2019-20, he completed his journey to the senior set up in September 2020 by starting for David Moyes’ side in a 5-1 Carabao Cup victory over Hull City.
Alese was also part of the Cambridge side that won promotion from Sky Bet League Two in 2021 and he was named in the Hammers’ Premier League matchday squad 11 times last season, whilst also featuring in the UEFA Europa League.
Upon joining SAFC, Alese said: “It’s amazing to be here and I’m happy the deal is done. I live five minutes away from West Ham’s training ground and I’ve been there since the age of eight, so it could have been easier to stay but life isn’t easy and I’m ready for the challenge. I spoke to Alex Neil, Kristjaan Speakman and Stuart Harvey and I got a great feeling about Sunderland AFC. This is the place I want to be, so now it’s time to crack down and get ready for the new season.”
Alex Neil added: “Aji is left-footed and he’s really quick. I like having balance in my team and he was at a stage whereby he was really pushing to get into West Ham’s first team, so we felt it was a really good fit for us. More and more, I think young lads are realising that they need to get on the pitch and show what they can do. It is important that Aji comes here, shows his quality and gets into the team - that will be up to him, but he has already shown an appetite to play and the qualities that he brings are ones that I think we needed to add to the squad.”