James was one of the most high-profile additions of a deadline day which saw Sheffield United loan Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen and promising midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White, and neighbours Wednesday sign controversial striker Saido Berahino.
Leeds tried to sign Hull-born winger James in January 2019 only for the deal with Swansea City to collapse at the very last minute in front of a Netflix documentary crew.
But the Whites never lost interest in a player who moved to Manchester United in the next window, and the Red Devils’ shock signing of Cristiano Ronaldo made him surplus to requirements.
“I’m grateful the club still believed in me from that time two-and-a-half years ago,” said James after signing a five-year contract. “I’m happy to be here and I can’t wait to play in front of these fans. This is where I wanted to be.”
James’s Old Trafford career never lived up to a blistering start, as demonstrated by the fact half his six Premier League goals came in the first 20 days. He started the first game of this season against Leeds and the most recent at Wolverhampton Wanderers but was substituted in both.
The right-footer showed at the European Championship with Wales, however, that he has the qualities to perform at the top level and clearly has the trust of Marcelo Bielsa.
“I’m a different player and a different person (to January 2019),” said James. “I’d only played half-a-season when I nearly signed here last time, but I’ve now got games under my belt at the top level and I’d like to think I can add something here.”
Bielsa has always been a believer in a small squad – too small for the comfort of some supporters – and James’s arrival was expected to be offset by the post-deadline loan of Helder Costa to Valencia.
Bryce Hosannah and Jordan Stevens, both on loan at Bradford City last season, were allowed to join ambitious Conference clubs Wrexham and Barrow respectively on free transfers. The League Two club also signed midfielder Robbie Gotts.
Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic very publicly targeted three signings yesterday and even when a window of painfully slow activity closed it was unclear if the Blades had achieved that.
Olsen, who is set to reach 50 caps in the upcoming international break, made 11 appearances on loan at Everton from Roma last season, and will spend this one at Bramall Lane.
Gibbs-White has made 66 Premier League appearances for Wolverhampton Wanderers, albeit 53 of them from the bench, without ever really cementing his place, and was loaned to Swansea City for the first half of last season.
A deal for Barcelona winger Alex Collado was still awaiting confirmation when the window shut.
Talented but troubled striker Berahino came through at West Bromwich Albion and made a £12m move to Stoke City in 2017.
But that failed to live up to expectations and he has spent the last two years abroad, with Zulte Waregem and Charleroi in the Belgian Pro League.
At Stoke he served an eight-week ban for failing a drugs test, claiming his drink was spiked with MDMA, and was released after being arrested for drink-driving.
There is no doubt, though, that if Darren Moore, who spoke of “unfinished business” can coax the best out of Berahino, Wednesday’s 14th signing of an incredible window of turnover could be their best.