The feeling of disappointment felt by Leeds United fans when the club’s January pursuit of Daniel James collapsed at the eleventh hour was echoed in the boardroom.
Andrea Radrizzani summed up the feelings of the hierarchy with his late deadline-day tweet pinning the blame firmly at Swansea City’s door after James had undergone a medical and agreed the terms of a loan-to-buy deal worth a total of £10million.
Director of football Victor Orta led the negotiations of the deal after being given the green light to proceed by Marcelo Bielsa, who had been blown away by the 21-year-old’s ability to open up defences in the final third.
Football Insider first broke the news last November that James was on Leeds’ radar as Orta and his recruitment team saw the potential of a player whose form at the time was mixed.
That is no longer the case and Premier League clubs are starting to sit up and take notice of James, who has been in red-hot form for club and country over the last two months.
He scored his first Wales goal during a Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia during the recent international break and netted for the fourth time this season for Swansea in their win against Brentford last weekend.
The wide attacker has also supplied seven assists, including for the first of Nathan Dyer’s goals against Brentford, but it is the manner of his performances that is, according to one Leeds source, “making jaws drop” among recruitment staffs across the land.
James’ blistering pace, acceleration and ability to drive forward with the ball means his camp are now convinced he will be playing in the Premier League next season.
Will that be at Leeds, who are second in the Championship and well placed to secure automatic promotion?
It’s possible and, crucially, the source explained Orta and his team have maintained a dialogue with James’ camp as United look to revive a deal they felt they had in the bag two months ago.
The winger is out of contract at Swansea in the summer of 2020 and, although he has said he is open to extending it, there has yet to be a breakthrough.
Premier League clubs including Southampton and Bournemouth are keeping close tabs on James, increasing the options for a rising star with the world at his feet.
Orta has laid the groundwork of the deal and made it clear how master coach Marcelo Bielsa would develop and improve the player were he to come under his wing next season.
Leeds are working on signing James but may have their work cut out to get him if he keeps delivering such breathtaking performances.
In other Leeds United transfer news, the club are working on a deal to sign an international in the form of his life – but may need to get promoted to seal deal.