A clear picture has been painted over the future of Dan James following the Wales winger’s somewhat surprising deadline day move from Leeds United to Fulham.
The 24-year-old only moved to Elland Road in a £25m deal last summer, ending a lengthy pursuit from Leeds. They had come within a whisker of signing James in January 2019, only for Swansea to pull the plug at the last moment. And when he wound up at Manchester United a few months later, Leeds thought their chance had passed.
But he remained in Leeds’ sights and was very much a player that former boss Marcelo Bielsa was desperate to work with. As such, it came as no surprise when the Whites eventually brought him to West Yorkshire.
Indeed, he was a regular in the side last season, playing 32 times for Leeds in the Premier League. And despite playing out of positon, often covering for the injured Patrick Bamford in a central attacking role, he scored four goals and added four assists for Leeds.
However, his time at Leeds was surprisingly brought to an end on transfer deadline day when the Whites allowed him to leave.
That was after Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani decided to move him on, with the winger joining Fulham on loan. That move gives the Cottagers an option to make the move permanent, with the fee set at around £20m. Since the move, James has spoken of his aims after moving to Craven Cottage.
His departure from Elland Road, however, has not gone down well with supporters. They feel that, having played out of position for much of last season, the winger has been bvadly treated.
Dan James unlikely to play for Leeds Utd again
And it seems Leeds were willing to trade the player in order to bring another one in. To that end, Leeds brought in Italy striker Wilfried Gnonto from FC Zurich on deadline day.
However, the ‘one in, one out’ policy is also not well received by supporters. To that end, Leeds finished the window with an estimated net spend of just £3m.
And while some would point to smart business, the exit of James does not appear to have gone down well with Jesse Marsch.
The Leeds boss has indicated the sale was made against his will and that he’s sorry to see the player depart.
“Yeah, it was clear that if we needed to add something that we needed to move something,” Marsch said. “I hate speaking about it that way because I love Dan James. He’s an incredible person and he gives everything to the group always.
“When we were trying to think about how to get the balance right in the team, this was the key was garnering the most interest and it was the only way that we could create flexibility to try and go out and add a striker position that we felt we needed.
“So I wish that we wouldn’t have had to do it and even the way that it went down because it was kind of tough for Dan.
“We discussed it weeks before the transfer deadline about the possibility. And then we had a lot of open conversations with Dan. It was tough at the end because I know he likes it here and his family likes it here.
“I wish him luck and I really liked him and I hope he has a good season and a good World Cup. And hopefully then we’ll see him again next time.”
Phil Hay thinks winger is gone for good
Despite Marsch hinting of a future reunion, it appears unlikely James will be seen in a Leeds shirt again.
The option Fulham have in his move suggests they will probably look to turn that into a permanent switch. And even if they don’t, it seems unlikely that Leeds will take James back in the current circumstances.
Asssessing the situation, Phil Hay reckons James is gone for good.
In a Q&A on The Athletic, Hay said: “I don’t think I see Dan James coming back, or it feels like a long shot.
“James is 24. He’s not especially young and Leeds have essentially said to him that they can do without him this season.”
It’s a massive shame for James and his treatment by Leeds has been shabby. He was still getting game-time by the club, despite discussions over his potential exit well before deadline day.
Indeed, he had played in all four matches that he was available for this season, prior to that move.
And his sale is the first time Marsch has spoken out in opposition of the Leeds board. While he stopped short of criticising them, he did strongly hint the move was against his best wishes.
Radrizzani will need to manage Leeds’ business carefully going forwards in order to not frustrate the American further.