Two years after one of the strangest transfer sagas in modern football, Daniel James has finally signed for Leeds United. The fee is reported to be roughly £24 million, plus potential add-ons adding up to £30 million, on a 5 year deal.
Leeds attempted to sign the winger in January 2019, and James had signed all the paperwork. He had his photos taken, he had practically signed the contract. All that was left was for Swansea to sign off on the transfer they had already approved in principle and James would have been a Leeds United player. Leeds only saw a glimpse of the deal collapsing in the last hour of the window. Swansea weren’t answering the phone, and the deadline passed at midnight. Dan James was sent back to Swansea for the rest of the season.
Marcelo Bielsa has long been an admirer of James. His work rate, fitness, and pace mean he would fit straight into the team. Leeds are really lacking an impact sub in that area who can inject pace into the wide areas. An eagle-eyed whites fan had seen that Bielsa had a file on his desktop as early as the “spygate” saga, spotted during a press conference.
Why is James suddenly available?
ith the transfers of Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United, it would appear James’ options at the club were becoming increasingly slim. Competition with Sancho, Rashford, Martial and Greenwood for the wide positions meant he was at the bottom of the pecking order. Manchester United decided to sell James towards the end of August, and it is no surprise that Leeds were on the phone immediately.
Hélder Costa’s form has dropped off since promotion. and he now looks like he is set to leave on loan. Phil Hay has suggested a move to Valencia could be on the cards for him.
Why do Leeds rate James so highly?
Anyway, why are Leeds willing to pay £24 million for James? Especially given the club only paid £17 million for star player Raphinha a year ago.
As previously mentioned, his work rate is second to none. His pressures per 90 (21.59) have him in the 94th percentile of players in his position in the big 5 leagues. Despite his reputation as not being the most clinical forward, he has a non-penalty goals per 90 minutes of 0.3, which has him in the 73rd percentile.
As well as these numbers, James’ blistering pace is impossible to miss. The goal below always springs to mind for me when discussing this.
Where will James fit into the team?
My guess would be coming off the bench, to begin with. Where every new signing at Leeds starts. Rodrigo and Raphinha were on the bench for their first few games last season too.
I can see Bielsa moving Raphinha into the number 10 role. This is something he alluded to in a press conference after signing Raphinha. He said he can play on the left, on the right, and eventually through the middle. Maybe now is the time. Jack Harrison and James on the flanks (both are comfortable on either side) with Raphinha roaming freely. Raphinha played in this role on his first Leeds start, in a 1-0 win over Everton. He was the sole goalscorer with a peach of a low drive from outside the area. James’ pace, Raphinha’s vision, and Harrison’s dribbling would make for a really difficult attack to defend against. All three of these players are capable of playing in each role, perhaps leading to a more dynamic 3 behind Patrick Bamford.
Is James the right signing?
All in all, this is a good signing for Leeds. He fits the Bielsa mantra. He is only 23, and Bielsa has a fantastic record at developing younger players, and even those a little older. He’s a player Bielsa and Orta have wanted at Leeds since day one, and Leeds fans will be happy to see this one get over the line. (Yes, even if they were giving him a bit of stick on opening day).
Header Credit: Leeds United