IN January of 2019, Dan James (£1.9m) posed for a photo while holding a Leeds United shirt somewhere in the bowels of Elland Road.
The image was supposed to be used as part of the club’s confirmation that they had the signed the Welsh winger from Swansea.
However, the deal fell through at the last moment after a dispute between the Swans’ chairman and members of the board.
Six months later, about three weeks after Leeds had capitulated in the play-off semi-finals to condemn them to another year in the Championship, James signed for their fierce rivals Manchester United.
Manager Marcelo Bielsa and Director of Football Victor Orta were both particularly aggrieved at having missed out on a promising talent in such a frustrating manner.
Now, nearly three years later, Leeds finally have their man as a byproduct of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s homecoming instantly rendered James surplus to requirements, prompting Leeds to swoop on deadline day.
At this stage, it seems like everyone wins from this transfer.
Man United have made a £10million profit on a player they were keen to offload, Leeds have acquired a player they’ve admired since 2019, and James is likely to play more minutes.
Not only that, the 23-year-old will be hopeful of improving as a player under the guidance of one of the most-respected coaches in world football.
Not long ago, Patrick Bamford (£3.9m) was considered a wasteful Championship forward while plenty of Leeds fans were unsure whether Kalvin Phillips (£2.7m) was good enough to help them escape the second tier – both have become England internationals under Bielsa’s watch.
El Loco may see his new recruit as a personal project.
James possess some exciting raw ingredients, genuine pace being the most notable, and could yet be moulded into a effective Premier League winger.
Dream Team bosses would be wise to keep an eye on the Welshman’s progress at Elland Road.
He’s unlikely to become a regular starter from Game Week 4 as Bielsa is loyal to his troops – Jack Harrison (£3.1m) and Raphinha (£3.0m) have impressed in the top flight – and he often waits until players have met his strict fitness demands before considering them a core player.
James’ returns will be limited for a few more weeks yet but at £1.9m he has the potential to become a successful bargain option later in the season.
If he is able to provide returns equal to what Harrison and Raphinha have produced then he may be worth a spell at some point.
But make no mistake, James would need to improve his highest current level to become a viable Dream Team asset – he scored six goals and provided seven assists in 50 league games for Man United.
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