Moving to Manchester United must have truly been a starstruck encounter for Daniel James. The Welsh winger was merely 21 years of age when the transfer was sanctioned.
At the time, the move was largely critiqued as acquiring a less-known Championship player was regarded as proof that the Red Devils had fallen in their stock.
However, the starlet was quick to stamp his mark and his electric pace and early knack for goals did silence the critics. While James did not entirely carry on that consistency for the rest of the campaign, the time ahead holds much hope and potential.
Speaking about his football idols to Sky Sports, James reveals: “I’ve got quite a few. I think everyone looks up to [Lionel] Messi but I think I’ve got to go Juan [Mata] as someone I always looked up to and to play with him now is surreal for me. [Eden] Hazard is one, Thierry Henry, unbelievable. So yeah, I’d go them.”
The Mata mention didn’t go past the interviewer and the former Swansea City player went on to narrate: “I think just what he [Mata] did, so graceful on the pitch and I remember I got one of his shirts, Europa League shirts, when he won it at Chelsea.”
Fawning further about the Spaniard, James states: “He is just someone who I always looked up to. To play in the same team is just surreal for me. I think when I first met him it was just a bit weird. Growing up as a kid, looking up to someone and then end up playing with them. Not just being great on the pitch but off the pitch as well, someone that obviously inspire me a lot.”
However, what Mata did when the meeting did occur speaks volumes: “I think when I first met him he came and sat next to me in the changing room and he said ‘I know it is a big move for you, if you need anything here is my number. If you ever need a message, or someone to talk to I’ll be here’. That was great for me.”
Fans of the youngster will certainly be hoping that he emulates the David Moyes-era signing and then some.