MOT View: Finally some clarity on the failed Leeds transfer that may have cost promotion
It was the transfer that never was. And for a lot of Leeds fans, it was the transfer that would have delivered promotion to the Premier League last season.
No one knows if that’s true or not. But when you look at the rise of Daniel James – who moved to Man United in the summer and has started all but one of their Premier League games, scoring three goals and adding two assists – it’s hard not to picture him in a Leeds shirt scoring against Man United.
The failed transfer had all the drama. With James at Leeds, having passed his medical and filmed his intro video, the only thing that was left was the signed paperwork. When that didn’t arrive and the 11pm deadline loomed, it appeared something had gone very wrong.
And, while Leeds fans stayed up until the deadline hoping for salvation, a simple tweet from Phil Hay at 11.09pm killed their hopes stone dead.
Daniel James deal is OFF. #lufc
— Phil Hay (@PhilHay_) January 31, 2019
Leeds had put all their eggs in one basket and some fans criticised them after the deal fell through but that came from a place of frustration at what might have been.
As has been proved, Leeds had found the right man and made all the right moves. Impressive given James had only made his Championship debut in August 2018.
There was literally no chance of signing someone else as Leeds were waiting for Huw Jenkins, then Swansea chairman, to sign off on the deal.
And it was Jenkins who scuppered the proposed £8.5m deal (£1.5m upfront as a loan fee and an obligation to buy for £7m the following summer) before he resigned his own position the very next day.
In an interview with the Athletic, Jenkins has now revealed his thought process behind a decision which is still haunting the dreams of some Leeds fans.
“I tend to do most of the transfer deadlines from my home, because it’s peace and quiet,” Jenkins said. “You need time to collect your thoughts and stay clear of making mad decisions.
“I never deal well with being pushed into a corner and there was no way I was just going to let it [the James deal] happen for the sake of it…
“I communicated with everybody at Leeds on the phone, back and forth, and I am sure they put Dan on to me as well. They were all trying to convince us to do the deal but I just felt from a club’s point of view, based on value… it wasn’t right.
“I did give Dan my views. He had no guarantee of going straight into the Leeds team, and the uncertainty over whether they would buy him or not is not a good thing for a young player. Take all that into account and there was only one decision to be made. Thankfully, it worked out well for the football club and for Dan.”
The last point could be argued but Swansea went on to sell James to Man United for £15m rising to £18m.
There are a few takes from this. Firstly, that Leeds are getting their recruitment absolutely bang on. Daniel James, Ben White… these are Premier League players who Leeds are spotting before anyone else.
Secondly, Leeds did everything they could to make the deal happen. Of course, all the money upfront could have changed things but the Athletic story makes clear that wasn’t a possibility.
Third and finally, damn Jenkins. He did what he thought was right for Swansea but it ended up hurting Leeds a lot. He said James might not have gone straight into the Leeds team but he wasn’t being signed to sit on the bench and how Leeds missed his creativity and goals in the second half of that ill-fated season.
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