Tom Adeyemi was one of Leeds United’s more unexpected signings. The club targeted the midfielder at an early stage of the transfer window but were pleasantly surprised when, midway through July, Cardiff City allowed him leave on generous terms.
Adeyemi was rumoured to have cost Cardiff more than £1m a year ago and Leeds were not confident about the chances of recruiting him on a season-long loan. “It was too good an opportunity to turn down,” said Uwe Rosler after the deal went through, describing him as “very ambitious” and a “top professional”.
Leeds might feel already that the chance to sign Adeyemi on a full-time basis is a deal they should jump on when the time comes. He came to Elland Road with a view to a permanent transfer, agreeing a contract which in Rosler’s words gave United “first refusal” on him. United have a fixed-price option to buy Adeyemi at the end of his loan. After a strong month, culminating in a goalscoring performance during Saturday’s 2-1 win at Derby County, he looks like a valuable asset.
Adeyemi is contracted to Cardiff until 2017 and is in no position to burn his bridges there but he admitted that the prospect of joining Leeds long-term is “definitely something I’m thinking about.” Cardiff’s manager, Russell Slade, made little use of him last season and was not opposed to United’s offer.
“I think a lot depends on how I perform,” Adeyemi said. “I’ve got to make sure I get myself in a position where the club are thinking about me in terms of a long-term proposition.
“Obviously I’m still under contract with Cardiff and I don’t really know what the thoughts are there but I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here – as much as I’ve enjoyed playing anywhere else. It’s definitely something I’m thinking about.
“I’ve played under (Rosler) for one season at Brentford and the fact that he wanted me again shows that he believes in me. I believe in him in terms of the way he works and the way he does things. I believe he’ll be successful here so I want to be part of it.”
Rosler’s reasons for targeting Adeyemi – a reliable holding midfielder, albeit with the capacity to play box-to-box – became clear as his strategy and tactics fell into place last month.
The German’s attempt to press high up the field and counter-attack in numbers called for a steady hand in the centre of the pitch and a safety net in front of his defence. Adeyemi’s presence has reduced the risk of 4-3-3 and Leeds reached the international break unbeaten in five league games.
Despite claiming that his role in the team would not make people “sit up”, the influence of the former Norwich City trainee has not gone unnoticed either. His headed goal at Pride Park – a moment which he described as “amazing” – was the moment which rattled Derby and made their afternoon desperate.
“It’s not a job that everyone’s going to sit up and take notice of because it’s more of a defensive role,” Adeyemi said. “But it’s something I’m happy to do. If it means I’m going to be winning games and if it gives me the opportunity to play week in, week out then it’s going to be brilliant.”
Among a clutch of central midfielders at United, Adeyemi is the only player who has started all five league games. Rosler’s decisions were influenced by factors beyond his control – an injury to Luke Murphy and a suspension incurred by Lewis Cook in the first week of the season – but Adeyemi kept his place on merit. Adeyemi said: “It’s really competitive, and I think that drives us on to good performances.”
Leeds have had enough of those to feel satisfied with the first month of the term.
Victories over Burnley and Bristol City slipped through their fingers late in those matches but Chris Wood’s 88th-minute winner at Derby rounded off a promising period, leaving United with seven points.
Rosler complained constantly about the club’s schedule in August, but the international break arrived at a time when his team had their tails up.
“Part of me sort of says that after you get that win it would be nice to have another game to keep the momentum going,” Adeyemi said.
“But at the same time it’s been quite a punishing fixture list. It’ll be good for us now to get a bit of a break and a bit of time to switch off.”
Adeyemi spoke about Leeds having a “top-six mentality” shortly after joining from Cardiff and he was adamant on Saturday that Rosler’s squad should be threatening the play-off places.
The midfielder saw Norwich win two promotions during his time at Carrow Road but his role in those seasons was minimal.
Under Rosler, he was part of the Brentford team which reached the League One play-off final in 2013, only to lose to Yeovil Town at Wembley.
“I’ve been unfortunate to miss out on a couple of promotions,” Adeyemi said. “When I was at Norwich I managed to get one but I was a peripheral figure there.
“If I was able to achieve promotion here at Leeds United, that would be unbelievable.
“It would be the pinnacle of our lot of our careers – mine certainly. That’s what we all want to do.”