When Leeds United brought 19-year-old Illan Meslier to the club on a season-long loan deal back in the summer of 2019, it is unlikely that any of the Elland Road faithful would have predicted that the French U21 international would be the Whites’ first-choice goalkeeper by the end of the 2019/20 Championship campaign.
However, after Kiko Casilla received an eight-match ban after being found guilty of racially abusing Charlton Athletic loanee Jonathan Leko in March of 2020, Marcelo Bielsa was forced to deploy the youngster between the sticks over what was a crucial run of fixtures in Leeds’ push to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League.
And, after keeping five clean sheets and conceding just five goals over the eight games in which Casilla was unavailable – form that led to Victor Orta paying FC Lorient £5m in order to make the shot-stopper’s loan deal a permanent move – the now-22-year-old has been a near ever-present fixture in the Leeds’ starting XI ever since.
Rather remarkably, despite his tender age, the £43.5m-rated goalkeeper excelled over his 35 Premier League appearances in his debut top-flight campaign, keeping an astonishing 11 clean sheets and making an average of 4.0 saves per game – the joint fifth-most and the second-most in the league respectively that season.
These returns saw the French starlet – who Fabrizio Romano claimed is “untouchable” at Leeds – average a simply sensational SofaScore match rating of 7.13, not only ranking him as the Whites’ third-best performer in the league but also as the joint 33rd-best player in the division as a whole in 2021/22.
It was a similar story for the £22k-per-week shot-stopper over his 38 league fixtures last time out, as, despite Leeds shipping a total of 79 goals in their disappointing 2022/23 Premier League campaign, Meslier still managed to keep five clean sheets and make an average of 3.8 saves per game – the most of any goalkeeper in the division last term.
These metrics not only saw the 22-year-old average an impressive SofaScore match rating of 6.87 – ranking him as Jesse Marsch’s sixth-best performer in the league – but also saw the Frenchman attract the interest of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City last summer – although, with Phil Hay claiming it would take an offer of £50m+ in order to purchase the shot-stopper, no official offers appeared to be submitted to the Whites.
However, considering the quite evident upward trajectory Meslier is on, it would not be surprising if, following another solid season in the Premier League, Victor Orta does start fielding offers of around the £50m mark – a 900% increase on the fee the Spanish director of football paid for the youngster just two years ago – for the Frenchman next summer.
And, whether or not the club decide to cash in on the ‘keeper, one thing is clear – both Orta and Andrea Radrizzani stuck gold when bringing Meslier to Elland Road back in 2020, as the former Lorient starlet has not only made an exceptionally impressive addition to the Whites’ first-team, but he could also be the source of a substantial payday in the not too distant future.