Speaking to Wales Online yesterday, Leeds United’s Dan James has suggested he has no regrets about his deadline day loan move to fellow Premier League side Fulham this summer.
James was no stranger to last-minute transfer moves before this, however, as he joined the Whites for a £25m fee from Manchester United on the last day of 2021’s summer window. Since signing for the Yorkshire club, James has amassed 40 appearances in all competitions, scoring four and assisting five.
As Leeds strengthened in positions where James frequently featured in the side during the summer, replacing Raphinha with Luis Sinisterra and drafting in Brendan Aaronson from RB Salzburg for example, he viewed his place in the squad as under threat. His desire for minutes was only increased with the prospect of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, and the opportunity to represent his country of Wales it presented, looming on the horizon.
It was this which provided the primary motivation for James to leave Leeds on loan to the Cottagers.
Despite not making the immediate impact he would have perhaps expected at Fulham having made only eight appearances for them so far, James’ mission was accomplished as he was named in Rob Page’s World Cup squad for Qatar. As he arrived in Qatar for the tournament, James spoke to the Welsh press regarding his decision to leave Leeds.
“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. I was thinking about the World Cup,” he said.
“Maybe I was going to get more game-time. That was on my mind. I’ve never thought I’ve made the wrong decision. I still believe I made the right one. I spoke to the gaffer at Fulham and felt that was the best move in that moment.”
The right call
Whilst James had his supporters at Leeds, as well as his detractors, it is hard to argue that getting a loan to Fulham wasn’t the right decision for him on a personal level. While true that losing the winger meant a reduction in squad depth for Marsch’s side, James had to think about his immediate future in the world’s greatest international contest as well as his own development as a player.
Make no mistake, with all of the squad fully fit, James would have struggled to get into Leeds’ starting XI and consequently gain the game-time he was understandably seeking. James remaining in Yorkshire may also have limited the opportunity for impressive youngsters, such as in-form Crysencio Summerville or Wilfried Gnonto, to break into the first-team as they have.
Managing squad depth alongside personal player ambition at any club is always a fine balancing act, and in this instance it was the latter which superseded the former. As James takes to the pitch to represent his nation in Qatar, he will be left feeling that – undoubtedly – he made the right call.