By Will Butcher
Leeds have been dealt a blow as French Ligue 2 side US Orleans have swooped for Algeria international free agent Essaid Belkalem.
Orleans announced the signing of the centre-back on a one-year deal with the option of another year via their official website on Monday evening.
— US Orléans 🐝 (@US_Orleans) September 5, 2016
The 27-year-old was looking for a new home after being released by Premier League side Watford earlier this summer.
Leeds are keen to bring another centre-back to Elland Road, with just three recognised senior players in their squad that fit the role, and only one, Liam Cooper, on a permanent deal.
Leeds lost established centre-back and club captain Sol Bamba in September as he decided to terminate his contract with the Championship outfit.
Yorkshire Evening Post journalist Lee Sobot revealed via his personal Twitter account that the Yorkshire giants would have competition for the defender’s signature.
Top flight sides in France and Turkey also said to be interested in former Watford defender Essaid Belkalem, who #lufc are linked with
— Lee Sobot (@LeeSobotYEP) September 5, 2016
Despite making his professional debut eight years ago, Belkalem has made just 92 appearances in all competitions. He began his career with Algerian outfit JS Kabylie, and possesses Championship experience from his time with Watford where he made ten appearances.
He made his name for the national side during the 2014 World Cup, as Algeria reached the round of 16 for the first time in their footballing history. Belkalem played against South Korea, Russia and Germany.