Why Leeds United shouldn’t hesitate to sign Illan Meslier permanently
The Whites snapped up the 19-year-old Frenchman on a season-long loan deal from French Ligue 2 outfit Lorient back in the summer and as per the report, they have the option to turn his loan move into a permanent transfer at the end of the campaign.
Meslier is yet to make his professional debut for the West Yorkshire giants but he has been a regular fixture in manager Marcelo Bielsa’s matchday squads for the Championship games, with the teenager playing second-fiddle to undisputed No.1 between the sticks, Kiko Casilla.
Along with Brighton loanee Ben White, Casilla has been an integral component of a Leeds rearguard that has shipped only 10 goals in 20 league outings so far. The former Real Madrid star has already racked up as many as 10 clean sheets and continues to be an invaluable asset to Bielsa’s side.
However, with the Spaniard presently on the verge of being slapped with a ban from the Football Association due to his racist comments on Charlton Athletic’s Jonathan Leko, Bielsa is prepared to place his faith in Illan Meslier as the club’s No.1 if Casilla is sidelined for a few games. (Football Insider h/t Yorkshire Evening Post)
Meslier, who played as the No.1 for France during the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland earlier in the year, rose through the youth ranks of FC Lorient and made the step up to the first-team at his boyhood club during the previous campaign after spending time with the reserves in the lower divisions.
The highly-rated 19-year-old enjoyed an impressive breakthrough season at Lorient in Ligue 2 last term, establishing himself as the first-choice in goal and accumulating as many as 11 clean sheets in 30 appearances across all competitions.
That paved the way for a move to Elland Road in the summer on a season-long loan agreement, with Leeds United having the option to buy him permanently in the summer of 2020.
Illan Meslier boasts of an impressive CV for a shot-stopper aged just 19 and Leeds United have every reason to explore a permanent deal for him if he manages to prove his worth during Casilla’s potential absence.
The Whites, of course, have highly-rated England youth international Will Huffer coming through their U-23 ranks in the Professional Development League, while 23-year-old Kamil Miazek has also been around for a while.
However, Bielsa has never really shown any inclination of involving either of them in the playing XI in the Championship since taking charge in 2018 and the door pretty much remains open for a fresh face like Meslier to cement his place in the first-team.
In conjunction with Director of Football Victor Orta and manager Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United have put a lot of emphasis on their youth recruitment drive in recent times in a bid to build a strong platform for the future, and Illan Meslier certainly fits the profile of young and developing players put forward by the club.
Also, it is imperative to say that Meslier, unlike Huffer and Miazek, already boasts of some considerable professional experience under his belt and he could well prove to be the man to take over the No.1 duties from Casilla on a permanent basis in the years to come.
The 19-year-old is still very young for a goalkeeper but working under an experienced head like Bielsa could work wonders for his development given that the Argentinian has a big reputation of maximising the potential of up and coming players.
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All in all, Leeds United shouldn’t hesitate to complete a permanent transfer for the on-loan teenager if he manages to grab his opportunities in Casilla’s absence.