West Ham United have signed Iceland Under-21 central defender Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson on a long-term contract from HK Kopavogur.

The 17-year-old first spent a week on trial at Chadwell Heath back in February having caught the eye as he rapidly rose through the Icelandic youth ranks. Eyjolfsson, who has featured regularly for HK since making his debut at the age of 16, has long attracted the attention of some of Europe's leading clubs but was delighted to make the switch to join Alan Curbishley's squad.

"I am really happy to sign for West Ham," he said after his first day at training with his new team-mates on Friday, having arrived in east London last night and passed a medical. "I have heard of many good players that have come from the club's academy. When I was on trial in February I really enjoyed the tempo and style of training and it helped me take my talent to the next level.

"It is obviously very scary to move away from my family but it is my dream to play in England and what I have always wanted to do so that outweighs any apprehension I had about moving here. Playing for the [Iceland] Under-21s has been the best experience for me and I am so grateful to the coach for giving me that opportunity as it has helped me develop my game so much quicker. I am sure that is part of the reason West Ham signed me."

Eyjolfsson made his competitive debut at U21 level last November and had an instant impact, helping Iceland to their first win of the 2009 European Championship campaign with a 2-1 success in Belgium. Despite his young age - he only turns 18 next month - he has four U21 caps and is set to continue at that level for his country with two qualifiers still to play in September.

Capped previously at U16 and U17 level, Eyjolfsson was a star man at the 2007 European U17 Championship and although Iceland failed to make it beyond the group stage was named by UEFA as one of the players to watch in future. Those finals in Belgium also saw him show his versatility as he played in a holding midfield role, although he prefers to play at the back.

His father Eyjólfur Gjafar Sverrisson is a former Icelandic international who was capped 66 times by his country and enjoyed an illustrious playing career with Stuttgart, Besiktas and Hertha Berlin. In the Bundesliga alone, he played 251 games and scored 30 goals. He also went on to have a spell in charge of the Iceland team and, like his son, could play in both defence and midfield.