Leeds United have welcomed a number of exciting talents to Elland Road during Victor Orta’s tenure as the club’s director of football, with Joe Gelhadrt, Sam Greenwood, Crysencio Summerville, Darko Gyabi, Sonny Perkins and Mateo Joseph – amongst others – all arriving in LS11 over the last three years.
However, while a number of these players are either already a regular part of Jesse Marsch’s first team squad or catching the eye in Michael Skubala’s U21 side, there is one youngster Orta brought into the club who has arguably been of the Whites’ best signings in recent memory – Illan Meslier.
Indeed, after impressing during a season-long loan spell back in 2019/20, Leeds paid FC Lorient just £5m to make the goalkeeper’s temporary switch a permanent move in the summer of 2020 – with the 22-year-old having more than proved worth at least ten times this outlay in the time since.
Indeed, the £35m-rated shot-stopper highly impressed over his first two seasons in the top flight, making an average of 4.0 and 3.8 saves per game in 20/21 and 21/22 respectively – the second-most and most of any ‘keeper each season – as well as averaging SofaScore match ratings of 7.13 and 6.87 – ranking him as Leeds’ third-best and sixth-best performer in each respective campaign.
It has been a similar case over the £22k-per-week talent’s seven Premier League appearances so far this season, having kept two clean sheets and made an average of 3.3 saves – at a success rate of 70% – per game, with these metrics seeing the France U21 international average a SofaScore match rating of 6.93 – ranking him as the Whites’ sixth-best player in the league.
And, following the youngster’s show-stopping display in the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa on Sunday, former Leeds defender Matthew Kilgallon stated his belief that Meslier is now one of the leading goalkeepers in the top flight in one-on-one situations.
In comments cited by The Yorkshire Post, the 38-year-old said:
“He came out waving a few times, didn’t he? But do you know what I like about him, he’ll come out again. And he did, and he caught one in the second half. That’s what I like about him. You can tell he’s a confident lad. His one-on-one saves, he’s probably the best in the league, in my opinion.”
As such, considering his extraordinary development over the past two years, in addition to the fact that the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are reported to be interested in the goalkeeper, it is clear to see that Orta very much hit the jackpot on the “unreal” – in the words of Graham Smyth – Meslier.