Manchester United winger Daniel James has admitted that his failed move to Leeds was “weird”, but helped his development.
Wales international James was close to signing for Leeds on Deadline Day in January 2019, even signing a contract with the club, but the move fell through at the last hurdle.
He then headed for Manchester instead ahead of the current season, and has had a bright start to life at Old Trafford, even if his form began to tail off upon the turn of the year.
Now, reflecting on what he could have done at Leeds instead, the 22-year-old has revealed just how frustrated he was at his move to Elland Road collapsing.
“It was a weird one,” James told the Living the Dream podcast (via the MEN). “Because I didn’t even play a game for Shrewsbury [on loan the previous season] and then I only played that FA Cup game [for Swansea] when I scored, which was a massive confidence-booster.
“Having played a few months for Swansea, I spoke to my agent about the fact that Leeds wanted me. They were obviously a massive club, top of the table at the time.
“I’d only just started here [at Swansea] and I was loving it here, but I had a year and a half left on my contract and at the time Swansea weren’t offering me a new contract. In football you’ve got to be secure so it was a weird one. The manager didn’t want me to leave and was hopeful the club would offer me a new contract.”
James admitted that hearing of Leeds’ interest was hard to believe at first, and he was keen to make the move.
“I couldn’t really believe it then towards the end of January it was like, ‘yeah, I do want to go’. It took a while to get done and then I went there on Deadline Day.
“Leeds being close to Hull, where my family is from, was a big factor. But I’d been at Swansea since I was 16 to 21, and those years are massive.
“At the time it was the right decision. Leeds were offering me four years. The Amazon Prime documentary shows what happened: I got there in the morning, my agent said things could go to the wire, I did all the scans and medical stuff. I got to Elland Road about 6pm, did all the pictures with my shirt, all the interviews – because they wanted it to go out in the morning – and then it was strange.
“It got to about 9pm and I’d signed all the papers and then it was from club to club. I had people texting me saying ‘what’s happening?’ and I literally didn’t know. It wasn’t until 15 minutes to go until I thought: ‘this might not happen now’.
“I ended up ringing the chairman [of Swansea] to ask him what’s happening. It was all a bit crazy and then it wasn’t done – I threw my phone. I thought it’s not real.
“The chief exec of Leeds wasn’t happy at the time, but then it was just a case of driving home. It was a very weird situation and I think it helped me in some ways.”