Jack Harrison and Stuart Dallas may prove to be Leeds United’s most astute summer signings

Transfer windows, particularly for Premier League teams like Leeds United who are looking up, are about glamour and excitement.

Transfer windows, particularly for Premier League teams like Leeds United who are looking up, are about glamour and excitement.

Sometimes, though, unheralded re-signings are more important than the multi-million-pound glamourpusses with exotic names.

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The Whites made two yesterday, extending Stuart Dallas’s contract by another three years and finally making Jack Harrison’s move permanent after the years on loan from Manchester City.

Mr Versatile: Leeds United's Stuart Dallas has become an indispensible part of Marcelo Bielsa's squad due to the fact he can play several positions. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Mr Versatile: Leeds United's Stuart Dallas has become an indispensible part of Marcelo Bielsa's squad due to the fact he can play several positions. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Between injuries and illnesses Rodrigo, Diego Llorente and Robin Koch sprinkled stardust on the Whites’ first top-flight season since 2003-04, and Raphinha was one of the league’s most exciting players, but a top-half finish was based more on stalwarts like Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper, Mateusz Klich, Ezgjan Alioski, Dallas and Harrison raising their games.

Dallas is a roll-your-sleeves up utility player who 12 months ago was a 29-year-old who had never played Premier League football. But his contract recognises he is so much more than just that.

His team-mates have long appreciated the Northern Ireland internationals qualities, voting him their player of the year in his debut 2105-16 season.

But it is under the coaching of Marcelo Bielsa that he has really flourished, taking the prize again for the last two seasons and adding the overall club award in 2020-21.

Long wait: Leeds United's Jack Harrison was on loan at Elland Road for three seasons before finally signing a permanent contract with the club yesterday. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

To play for Bielsa, ability is not enough.

Fitness, adaptability and intelligence are essential. No wonder he loves Dallas, comparing him to Argentinian Javier Zanetti, who he coached for some of his 143-caps and praising his cleverness.

In the last two seasons, Dallas has started every league match but one, tribute to not only his conditioning during pandemic football, but his discipline.

He joined as a winger but under Bielsa the intelligence and versatility to change position as the team’s formation alters in a game became crucial.

Dallas appeared to have been earmarked as first-choice left-back at the start of 2020-21 but once he became vital in central midfield, Leeds upped their game again.

He started at full-back or wing-back in 15 of the first 18 matches last season, but midfield in 13 of the final 18.

The best utility players can often be relied on for solid performances every game, but Dallas has hit the heights too.

He scored eight Premier League goals last season and of those who bettered that, only Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan (13) could be classed as a genuine midfielder.

His performance at Manchester City in April was exceptional and rewarded with both Leeds’s goals.

His matchwinner was voted their goal of the season.

Harrison had to sit out that match because of the frankly unfair limbo he was stuck in after being stockpiled but never used by one of this country’s mega-clubs.

In all the 24-year-old played 128 times for the Whites without officially belonging to them and were it not for the depth of attacking talent England have in wide positions at present, he might well have played for his country too.

Like Dallas, he scored eight goals last season and he made eight more.

Just by being a proper winger rather than a wide attacker, he is unusual in the Premier League, if not at Elland Road.

If Dallas has been able to creep along with little expectation, Stoke-born Harrison has had to overcome the disappointments of not clearing the high bars set for him as a youngster, making his mark now at the age of 24.

He was released by Manchester United as a youth-teamer and began his senior career with City’s feeder club New York City before moving to Eastlands.

He never played for the Premier League side, though, loaned to Middlesbrough before he began his association with the Elland Road club.

There will be significant buys between now and August 31 – with Alioski’s future in doubt and Dallas’s midfield performances, Barcelona left-back Junior Firpo looks a strong possibility – but Leeds will struggle to sign anyone more important than Dallas and Harrison.