'This is a happy day' - Victor Orta on the scar of 2019 Daniel James Swansea saga and the player Leeds United have just signed
Today was a happy day for Leeds United director of football Victor Orta but he says he will forever live with the scar of what happened the first time he tried to sign Daniel James.
Orta finally got his man this afternoon in a £25m deal that brought the Welsh international winger across the Pennines from Manchester United.
James signed a five-year deal and Leeds went to town with social media nods to the January 2019 move that collapsed in dramatic and, for Orta, traumatic fashion. James was at Elland Road, with his paperwork filled out, a squad number chosen and photos taken, when Swansea's boardroom politics stopped them from answering Leeds' calls.
A deal that was all-but done quickly became undone as the deadline passed and James headed back to the Swans. Orta's despair was captured by a documentary crew following Leeds' every move in a season that ended in play-off heartache.
"I think this is like a scar that you have always with you," said Orta of that deadline day episode.
"You don't feel pain but you have the scar. I don't know the destiny about that. Now obviously I understand the full picture of that situation but in that moment there were a lot of things I didn't understand. The scar is still there."
Leeds felt then that James was the missing piece of the puzzle, but had to carry on without him. Their promotion project took a further 18 months to complete and a year on from that, James has finally become a Leeds United player. Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United from Juventus set the wheels in motion for James to depart Old Trafford and return to the Elland Road offices, this time to sign for real.
Orta cannot say what might have happened had Swansea allowed the 2019 deal to be completed, but he can say that Leeds have signed a player who improves Marcelo Bielsa's squad.
"I don't know if with Daniel we would have got that promotion or not, or perhaps just one year later with the team more mature," he told the YEP.
"For him, he's had experience in a big club and arrived with a different maturity. At the end God decides and now is the time. At the end I feel the same as I did then, he's a player to play for Leeds United, a player to play for the style of Marcelo Bielsa. We detected all his characteristics to try and give Marcelo a better player and a better performer for the club.
"To be honest I personally am really happy because the situation of the winger, in a moment I felt it would be difficult but at the last moment, just like a year ago with Rennes and Raphinha when it happened so quickly, the Cristiano [Ronaldo, to Manchester United] deal helped us finish a goal that was two and a half years in the making. For me personally today is a really happy today."