Since emerging as Leeds United’s number one goalkeeper, Illan Meslier has shown exactly why many at the club believe him to be an integral part of their future.
Speaking on The Inside Elland Road Podcast just over a year ago, The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Graham Smyth said: “He’s been great, hasn’t he? For a 20-year-old, for £5m, I mean Victor Orta – it feels almost illegal what he’s done getting a player of that quality at that age for £5m, remarkable business.”
The towering Frenchman joined from Lorient, and after usurping Kiko Casilla to become the Whites’ first-choice shot-stopper, has become one of the Premier League’s most promising goalkeepers, if not the most.
Still only 22, Meslier has racked up considerable top-flight experience by playing week-in and week-out, and enjoyed a superb debut campaign at the highest level last season.
With a total of 11 clean sheets to his name in the Premier League, Meslier ranked joint-fifth among all goalkeepers in the division, and that despite playing for a side who have come to be known for their more attacking style of play and committing men forward.
Aside from his shot-stopping though, the young Frenchman’s ability with his feet has always been one of his standout attributes, with former Whites striker Jermaine Beckford raving: “The kid is incredible. I was watching the game (against Everton) and there were a couple of moments, (Dominic) Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and James (Rodriguez) had chances, but Meslier stood in their way. His distribution is one of the best in the Premier League.”
Indeed, Meslier’s willingness to come for crosses and take the pressure of his defenders has also been raved about by former England goalkeeper David James, who said earlier this calendar year: “Meslier – I love him. I went on social media, I was watching a game and he went for about 10 crosses (v Burnley), he carried on coming for crosses.
“The commentators were battering him. I was thinking ‘the guy is still coming’, and as soon as the whistle went, the camera was panning but you could see all the defenders going up to him. That is quality.”
His performances in the Premier League have now seen his value shoot up, with CIES now rating him at a mammoth £40m – an increase of eight times his initial fee.
There’s no questioning that Victor Orta struck a dream deal by landing a goalkeeper for both the present and the future, for so cheap.