While Leeds United may have sealed the deadline day signing of Manchester United winger Dan James, Marcelo Bielsa will surely be gutted at missing out on Huddersfield Town midfielder Lewis O’Brien in this summer transfer window.
Journalist Alan Nixon had claimed earlier in the summer that O’Brien was “very near” to the top of the shortlist for Marcelo Bielsa as they looked to bring in reinforcements in the middle of the park.
Then, The Daily Mirror (print edition, page 64, August 22, 2021) appeared to deliver a boost to Leeds’ hopes of signing him by revealing that the Terriers would sell the 22-year-old for around £8m.
But, in response to a question from a fan about whether the Whites would pursue a late move for the midfielder on transfer deadline day, The Athletic’s Phil Hay said on Twitter: “Not a matter of time. They’re not stretching to £8m+ for O’Brien.”
When news emerged of Leeds’ interest in O’Brien, former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell delivered his seal of approval over a potential late move for O’Brien this summer.
He said: “They are weaker without Kalvin Phillips in there, for sure.
“The Man United game, I thought they’d have lost without him anyway. But he is so important to them and it is massive for Leeds to have him back. But O’Brien does stiffen that midfield up. He’s a really, really good player. I think they will definitely look to strengthen.”
Former Huddersfield goalkeeper, Matt Glennon, also waxed lyrical about the midfielder, adding: “He closes down until the 95th, 96th minute, still running to the corners, stopping defenders, he’s got unlimited energy.
“Lewis O’Brien wants to put the hard yards in and wants to be at the very top of where he can get to. He’s one of those lads who works ridiculously hard which, for me, is your minimum in any league, but he’s got that quality, the drop of a shoulder, that strength to keep people off him, a low centre of gravity to glide past people, arm aloft when they try to knock him off the ball.”
So while Bielsa will be delighted at finally getting his man in James after a couple of years of tracking him, the fact the Whites couldn’t push through a deal for O’Brien or in fact any other central midfielder to strengthen the first-team is sure to leave him gutted.
He will surely be praying Kalvin Phillips can stay injury-free and that his existing options can really step up to the plate.
It’s a howler from Leeds to go the entire the summer transfer window and also deadline day without bringing in a new midfielder to either challenge or cover for Phillips, and it’s one that they will be hoping doesn’t cost them dearly once the Premier League returns after the international break.