Leeds United avoid damaging Arsenal scenario with five ‘free’ summer transfer dealings


Daniel James arrived at Elland Road yesterday to much fanfare as the 23-year-old finally secured a switch to Leeds United.

It has been described as a homecoming of sorts, despite the fact James has never represented Leeds, or had an affiliation with the Whites previously.

This sentiment of course stems from the fact that as a 20-year-old, James was on the cusp of becoming a Leeds player, only for his then-employer Swansea City to veto the deal due to boardroom politics.

Now though, James will be pulling on the No. 20 at Elland Road, possibly as soon as Liverpool at home in 11 days’ time.

First, he heads out for international duty where he will join up with Tyler Roberts, who will no doubt brief him on what it means to be a Leeds United player – and to work under Marcelo Bielsa.


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James was the final piece to Bielsa’s puzzle, a move in the offing for quite some time, and unlikely to have been completed if not for other transfers taking place elsewhere.

Junior Firpo, Kristoffer Klaesson and Jack Harrison were Leeds’ other permanent additions to the first-team squad this summer; a largely successful window, despite the nip-and-tuck nature of last-minute deals.

While Leeds spent roughly £50 million on those four signings – equating to half their investment in the playing squad the previous summer – there were a handful of boardroom dealings that could prove to be equally beneficial, if not more so in future.

They are of course the numerous contract renewals Director of Football Victor Orta oversaw during the summer transfer period.

Shortly after the 2020/21 season’s conclusion, versatile midfielder Stuart Dallas was awarded a new deal at Elland Road. The 30-year-old earned a one-year extension for his stellar performances in winning last season’s in-house Player of the Year.

The Northern Irishman’s deal now runs until 2024, securing his Elland Road future – not that there would have been much danger of losing him to an alluring bid from another club.



Stuart Dallas signs his new contract with Leeds United, July 2, 2021

Perhaps the most important but least surprising of all was Marcelo Bielsa’s one-year contract extension, which always appeared a foregone conclusion, but was not announced until days before the Whites’ first game of the season at Old Trafford.

Bielsa turned 66 over the summer but the fire and desire within him still burns, having overseen extensive renovations at the club’s Thorp Arch training base, instead of taking a well-earned break.

His constant pursuit of progression and improvement at all levels meant the likelihood of him departing this summer was extremely slim – but the scribble on his Leeds United contract eased any remaining doubts within the fanbase for another year.



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Dallas and Bielsa were not the only high-profile club figures to be rewarded with an extension though; Illan Meslier and Patrick Bamford signed new deals – both until 2026.

The length of these extensions is indicative of Leeds’ planning for the future. Securing Meslier in particular for that period of time not only protects his value, but also his level of performance. Rival clubs will automatically be deterred by the prospect of an eye-watering transfer fee – which would be required to release him from his contract over the next few seasons.

The Frenchman can focus solely on his football, rather than off-field negotiations.

Bamford’s commitment until 2026 comes as something of a surprise, given he will be on the verge of turning 33 by the time that deal expires. Nevertheless, it is a reflection of just how highly Marcelo Bielsa values him.



Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier poses with the No. 1 shirt

Last but not least, Charlie Cresswell’s contract extension is perhaps the most exciting.

Leeds’ domineering centre-half, old-school and unapologetic, has signed on until 2025 having just turned 19.

It has been an excellent summer for Cresswell who has also earned a maiden England under-21 call-up, signifying how highly he is regarded outside of Leeds United circles.



Charlie Cresswell poses for pictures after signing a new Leeds United contract in August 2021
Charlie Cresswell poses for pictures after signing a new Leeds United contract in August 2021

Summer business is often viewed through the narrowest of lenses: How many signings were made? How many millions were spent?

In actual fact, some of the most important ‘business’ is often rewarding valued members of the squad with extensions, and maintaining a tight grip over the club’s most promising prospects.

Other clubs are not so adept at forward-planning, and can find themselves in sticky situations when it comes to player contracts running down to the point of expiry.

As it stands, Arsenal currently have Bernd Leno, Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, Mohamed Elneny, Calum Chambers and Eddie Nketiah leaving the Emirates’ Stadium in less than 12 months.

Five of those featured in the Gunners’ latest defeat to Manchester City.

Even without Daniel James’ addition – which improves the perception of Leeds’ window considerably – the Whites had a good summer.





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