Private jets and adjoining hotel rooms - how Leeds United wrapped up Jean-Kevin Augustin transfer to complete January business

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Once bitten, twice shy – January 2019 took a great big chunk out of Leeds United and they were determined not to let it happen again in 2020.

With days of the January transfer window to spare, United have delivered on what they said they would do, back at the start of December.

There was a possibility that Marcelo Bielsa would require a winger and a striker.

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By January 27, winger Ian Poveda and forward Jean-Kevin Augustin were both in the building. Job done.

Leeds knew that Eddie Nketiah might go back to Arsenal and Jack Clarke would probably go back to Tottenham and by January 1 both had been recalled – Nketiah waving goodbye to the Whites fans at West Brom after the New Year’s Day fixture, Clarke already long gone.

United have also had in mind the FA racism charge hanging over goalkeeper Kiko Casilla and the potential ban if he is found guilty, but Bielsa, his staff and players have confidence in Ilan Meslier, whose performance in the FA Cup at Arsenal calmed any lingering nerves among fans who hadn’t seen his impressive Under 23s displays.

Yet it was decided that another keeper, to add back up, was prudent, so in came Italian teenager Elia Caprile from Chievo Verona.

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Three signings required, three delivered and all against a backdrop of the difficulties posed by the Profit and Sustainability rules, a notoriously difficult January market and competition from elsewhere for the players they wanted.

R-L: Victor Orta, Jean-Kevin Augustin and Angus Kinnear at Elland Road today, when the transfer was completedR-L: Victor Orta, Jean-Kevin Augustin and Angus Kinnear at Elland Road today, when the transfer was completed
R-L: Victor Orta, Jean-Kevin Augustin and Angus Kinnear at Elland Road today, when the transfer was completed

Poveda, coming to the end of his contract at Manchester City and given Pep Guardiola’s permission to leave in order to further his career by playing games, was wanted by clubs in Italy.

Leeds persevered and were always confident they could get that deal done, which they did last Friday night.

He has already bedded in, impressing veteran Stuart Dallas with how quick he is on the pitch and how quickly he has integrated into the squad.

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It was the striker hunt that attracted the most attention and caused the most concern around the club, because goals have been a little hard to come by at times this season and because Patrick Bamford was Bielsa’s only senior striker.

Despite Bielsa’s insistence that Leeds would not sign a striker just to placate the public, it felt paramount to the promotion push that they get someone in.

Che Adams was a target and one Leeds pursued with real intent, making three bids that were all knocked back by Southampton.

Desperate to avoid a repeat of the Dan James 2019 saga, when all the eggs were in one basket, the basket was delivered to Elland Road on deadline day but then withdrawn from sale by Swansea at the 11th hour; they worked on different deals at the same time.

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Throughout the month there was a suggestion from the club that a player plying his trade on the continent was one target they felt would excite fans.

In the middle of last week, by which time the final bid for Adams had failed, there was a feeling that the European-based forward might be the one they could pull off. Yet even when his name emerged in the media, outlets in France reported with a great deal of confidence that a deal for Augustin was done and the man himself starting liking United supporters’ tweets, sending fan expectancy through the roof.

Leeds kept schtum, determined not to count any chickens, particularly with foxes in the form of Premier League clubs and top-flight French outfits on the prowl.

United went to extreme lengths to keep it under wraps, too.

Augustin decided that he wanted to cut short his loan stint at Monaco and head to England to play for Bielsa, so was flown to Leeds on a private jet late on Sunday night, landing on the Multiflight private runway at the back of the Leeds Bradford airport. He was driven to the Doubletree by Hilton, whisked through a side door and when he got up on Monday morning, walked into an adjoining room the club had booked out, cleared out and transformed into a mobile medical facility.

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Leeds head of medicine and performance Rob Price gave the 22-year-old his medical and then it was off to Elland Road to sign on the dotted line and pose for pictures, white shirt on, fist on heart.

Augustin has been admired by Bielsa for some time and tracked by director of football Victor Orta, who is said to have a good relationship with the player’s agent, Meïssa N’Diaye, head of Paris-based Sport Cover.

N’Diaye’s client list includes Manchester City star Benjamin Mendy, who credited Bielsa for ‘waking him up’ at Marseille and helping to unleash his potential.

Ultimately Bielsa’s presence at Leeds was, yet again, a major pull for a potential signing, despite not having spoken to Augustin during the negotiations, preferring instead for Orta and his team to furnish the striker with all the information he needed to make up his mind.

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Bielsa says he only wants players who want to play for Leeds.

And, in January, the club has supplied him with three more, sewing up their business five days ahead of the deadline.

It is now down to the players, Poveda and Augustin predominantly, to prove Leeds United got it right in January 2020.