Leeds United's most important signing in the most important January transfer window since the last one - Graham Smyth

Che Adams is a target but he's not Leeds' only plan (Pic: Getty)Che Adams is a target but he's not Leeds' only plan (Pic: Getty)
Che Adams is a target but he's not Leeds' only plan (Pic: Getty)
This is the most important January transfer window for Leeds United since the last January transfer window, but this one has to end differently.

The Whites cannot afford to leave this window with the same bitter disappointment and deflation that greeted the collapse of the Dan James transfer in January 2019.

James was Victor Orta’s Plan A, he was wanted by Marcelo Bielsa and on deadline day he was sat in the building, waiting to sign.

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For reasons by now well documented, he never got to sign, Orta ended the night in tears and James ended up back at Swansea.

He’s now a Manchester United player and Leeds are now planning to avoid a repeat of that particular saga.

Leeds are working to convince Southampton that there is a deal to be done for striker Che Adams, despite public utterances from Ralph Hasenhuttl that he won’t be allowed out on loan.

United must either have had, at the very least, mixed signals from St Mary’s to encourage their advances or simply believe they can change the minds of the Saints decision-makers.

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Orta does have previous for changing minds that appeared to be made up, the late and successful bid to pluck Eddie Nketiah from the hands of Bristol City is evidence of that.

It didn’t work out at Leeds for Nketiah because he couldn’t shift Patrick Bamford from the lone striker spot and there are, of course, no guarantees that Adams could do that.

He’s capable of holding the ball up and holding off defenders, he’s a powerful forward and a deadly finisher – he scored 22 goals in the Championship last season.

But he hasn’t proved he can do the other side of the game expected by Bielsa, leading the press and defending from the front, in the way Bamford has done to such good effect.

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At Birmingham last season he played in a side that did not utilise a high press, staying in a set structure and waiting for the opposition back four to move forward before engaging.

Southampton are a pressing side, but he hasn’t played a lot of football for them and can’t nail down a starting place.

He might well be capable of it, athletic enough to do it and if so, there is an argument to be made that with him in the squad, Leeds would be in a better position than when Nketiah was wearing white.

Ifs, buts and maybes rule the roost in January.

But as much as Adams might be the 2020 Plan A and might be the one Bielsa has given the thumbs up to, all of United’s eggs are not in one basket. They can’t be.

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Were Bamford to go down injured in February, without an adequate replacement in the ranks, the Whites would be in big trouble and the ensuing meltdown among the rank and file of the fanbase would make Orta and co nostalgic for the Dan James saga.

Other options are being worked on and Leeds are determined not to allow the window to progress too far without a resolution from Southampton.

They are looking at other strikers, at home and abroad and lining up potential ‘Plan B’ signings for what is the most vital position.

The goalkeeping department will be boosted, should Italian teenager Elia Caprile’s move cross the line in the next week, but Ilan Meslier enjoys the confidence of the Elland Road hierarchy, Bielsa, the staff and his fellow players, thanks to his performances in training and for the Under-23s.

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And any lingering nerves over a potential ban for Kiko Casilla were surely blown away by the French youngster’s debut display at Arsenal this week.

The expected arrival of a winger should take care of the vacancy left by Jack Clarke’s Tottenham recall and Jordan Stevens is already enjoying Bielsa’s backing.

A question mark remains in the minds of some over the midfield, particularly if Adam Forshaw cannot get fit, but Leeds believe he can and will.

So all eyes are on the situation at the top end of the pitch, where a signing must be made, a good one, to avoid egg and more tears on faces at Elland Road on deadline night.