Leeds United’s transfer deadline day was fuelled by promise and expectation as the club looked nailed on to secure the signature of Daniel James but the deal feel through at the eleventh hour in a dramatic turn of events, depriving Marcelo Bielsa of a vital weapon in his bid to clinch promotion.
Bielsa and Victor Orta had one clear objective during the January window after they concluded the signing of Kiko Casilla: sign Daniel James.
If you’d uttered the name of Swansea City’s prodigy at the start of the season it’s unlikely that Leeds supporters would have mustered up much by way of enthusiasm over a player who was yet to play a single game in the Championship.
After signing for Swansea in a deal worth just £75,000 in 2014, James spent his time developing in the youth ranks before being handed his first genuine opportunity by Graham Potter this season.
The early openings of the season hinted that the Swans had unleashed a hidden gem, and that feeling has persisted with every passing fixture.
Leeds’ interest was hardly surprising given their shortage of midfielders, with Bielsa giving the green light to press on with a deal after Orta had recommended him to the Argentine (as per Leeds Live).
That Leeds were reportedly willing to pay up to £10 million in total for James in the event that the club clinched promotion is a telling indicator of how far the 21-year-old has come this season.
The prospect of earning a massive profit from James’ sale was apparently not enough to convince Swansea to sanction what would have been an incredibly unpopular deal in south Wales, and their last minute decision could represent an opportunity wasted come the end of the season.
With Tom Carroll and Jefferson Montero both leaving the Liberty Stadium on deadline day, Swansea found themselves in a precarious situation which ultimately forced them to cancel the proposed James switch, but if Leeds had been sharper in negotiations they might not have faced deadline day disappointment.
While the complications of completing multi-million pound transfers are vast, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that Leeds missed a trick over the signing of a player who clearly has the potential to command a significant transfer fee in the future.
Leeds’ promotion bid would have looked healthier with him in the side but, after all, they have placed themselves in a fantastic position without him, so it’s not a setback which will break their season.
But, in the long-term future, there’s no doubt that Leeds may well live to regret missing a potential bargain deal in bitter circumstances.
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