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Sport 'He's not answering!' The behind-the-scenes story of Leeds United's failed bid to sign Daniel James amid Man Utd exit rumours

00:45  25 september  2020
00:45  25 september  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Daniel James. Leeds United. Transfer saga. It's a familiar tale.

As Manchester United's Wales winger finds himself linked with a move to Elland Road again, whatever unfolds over the coming 10 days or so will have to go some to match the drama of what happened in January last year.

This was the transfer window when Leeds United spectacularly failed to sign the Welshman after Swansea City pulled the plug on the deal at the very last minute.

James looked set to join the Whites on an initial loan deal with the move to be made permanent if Marcelo Bielsa's side gained promotion into the promised land of the Premier League.

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And Amazon Prime's Take Us Home: Leeds United documentary reveals exactly what went on behind-the-scenes at Leeds on deadline day as James' move fell through in dramatic fashion.

After agreeing terms with Leeds, Swansea allowed James to travel to Yorkshire with a view to completing his switch from the Liberty Stadium to Elland Road.

Discussing the move, Leeds' director of football Victor Orta said: "We have a deal that we are monitoring closely. Now I feel that we are discussing little details. When you are discussing the little details it's the last part of the transfer.

"It's not easy, you need to agree with the player, the agents, the club that sells and the club that buys, this is not easy, there are a lot of things involved.

"I feel eighty per cent now."

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James arrived at the club's Thorp Arch training base for a medical and underwent a series of tests - as each player does before a transfer - to ensure he was in top condition before sealing a move to the English club.

And after passing all of the required tests, James headed to the club's Elland Road home with his father Kevan to sign the final pieces of paperwork to complete the transfer.

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Orta and Leeds' managing director Angus Kinnear were among those at the stadium to help James with the formalities of his move.

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The 21-year-old was allocated the No. 21 jersey and even had his photo taken with the club shirt ahead of his proposed transfer.

But problems arose. And the panic started to set in at Elland Road when Leeds could not get a response from the Swansea end.

In the documentary, Orta is seen texting the message: "Any word from Swansea? We are all here waiting."

And there were clearly concerns among those in the dressing room at Leeds.

Defender Luke Ayling commented: "As the night went on, I sat there watching it thinking 'is this going to get announced?'"

The problem was simple, as Kinnear revealed.

"Huw's not answering his calls, that's the problem," he said.

The reality slowly sunk in, and despite their best attempts to resurrect the deal, Leeds failed to land their man as a result of then Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins' extraordinary U-turn.

"I've been here all day and everything's done man, but they won't sign," James explained on the phone.

And the documentary highlights the full scale of the frustration felt by the top brass at Leeds on deadline day.

Orta commented: "I don't know what's happening in the future now with him or with us. After this situation, nobody wins.

"Swansea I think have a player after this episode, it's really difficult. The player cannot get his dream and Leeds can not get this player."

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Kinnear was equally furious.

"We really didn't get any sight of the fact that it wasn't going to happen until the last hour, and that's never happened to me on a transfer before," he said.

"While from a fans' perspective it clearly looked like a f*** up, I think we were just the unwitting victim of boardroom politics from the Swansea end.

"It was unfortunate because we couldn't make the deal work for Daniel in the end. I think it would have been a good deal for him and his family, and from a football perspective."

The 11pm deadline had passed and James was still a Swansea player.

As a result of the emotional stress that came with his failed move, James was allowed to miss the Swans' Championship clash with Bristol City at Ashton Gate two days after deadline day, a game that proved to be the final one of Jenkins' tenure as chairman.

Ironically enough, Wales youngster James returned to action for Swansea against Leeds United at Elland Road on February 13, just under a fortnight after he had been at the ground with a view to joining the Whites.

After the move collapsed, Orta simply embraced James before jokingly commenting "see you next Wednesday" in reference to Swansea's league fixture with Leeds.

"Respect your player because you gave him permission to make the medical," added Orta.

"We are talking about people who have feelings. Today is one of the most tough moments that I watch a player of 20-years-old and his father, it's never happened in my career."

James ultimately returned to Swansea and embarked on a remarkable run of form that saw his stock rise on a seemingly weekly basis.

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And after featuring for Wales in their Euro 2020 qualifiers in Croatia and Hungary, James sealed a £15m - a sum that could rise to £18m with add-ons - to Manchester United.

He enjoyed a superb start at Old Trafford but has slowly found himself slipping down the pecking order.

James has faced some unfair criticism from sections of supporters, with reports emerging Leeds are keen to try and capture him once again.

Leeds boss Bielsa has monitored James since that fateful January day and still rates him highly.


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