Daniel James has backed his decision to leave Leeds for Fulham as it gave him a better chance of playing at the World Cup.
The 25-year-old moved to Elland Road in the summer of 2021, with Leeds paying Manchester United in the region of £25m for the youngster. He started 26 Premier League games for the Red Devils in 2019-2020. But his game time diminished the following campaign, with just 11 starts and 15 league outings.
The Whites came calling and he moved across the Pennines. And the Wales international saw plenty of action for the West Yorkshire side, with 32 top-flight appearances.
However, on deadline day he was loaned to the Cottagers for the rest of 2022-2023.
Eyebrows were raised at the move as Tottenham had been heavily linked throughout the summer. But he ended up in the west of the capital.
It has been a slow start to the season for the pacey wide man. With only three starts among eight Premier League appearances, it could be argued that he would have seen more action at Leeds.
He is currently with Wales at the World Cup. James has now lifted the lid on just why he opted for the move south.
And it seems as though his participation in the Qatar showpiece was the driving force.
“It’s (World Cup) one of the pinnacles of my career,” he told Wales Online. “I wanted to play games and be fit coming into the tournament. It was always on my mind.
“I was there for a season (at Leeds) and really enjoyed it. I loved the place and my family loved it there. It was tough (to leave), it was deadline day and it was last minute.”
James backs Fulham switch
James scored four goals during the 2021-22 season with Leeds. He was part of a side that struggled, with Marcelo Bielsa sacked as the club sat at the wrong end of the standings.
Jesse Marsch managed to guide them to safety by the skin of their teeth, with a final-day victory over Brentford preserving Leeds’ top-flight status.
Big-name stars Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha left for Manchester City and Barcelona respectively during the summer.
And it was a surprise that James was allowed to leave despite the arrival of Luis Sinisterra and Brenden Aaronson.
But he will ply his trade by the River Thames until May next year and clearly has no regrets about that choice.
“I was thinking about the World Cup and maybe I was going to get more game-time,” he added.
“That was always on my mind. I’ve never thought since that I’ve made the wrong decision. I still believe I made the right one.”
James and his Wales team-mates begin their World Cup adventure against USA on Monday. They also face Iran and England in Group B in what is already proving to be a controversial tournament.
The event will give James a platform to showcase his skills to a wider audience.
He will play under Marco Silva until the end of the season. But his future back at Leeds remains up in the air.
And a decent showing in the Middle East might persuade suitors that he is worth a punt next summer.