Leeds United supporters are no strangers to seeing reports linking their club’s best and most promising players with moves away from Elland Road. The months building up to last summer were peppered with speculation regarding the futures of both Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips and it only mounted as the campaign came to a close.
The talk was such that by the time the transfer window opened there was almost an inevitability that both players would be leaving, Phillips joining Manchester City, while Raphinha eventually made the switch to Barcelona. As it stands, with just two months of the latest Premier League campaign remaining, this year has been a little different.
Yes, futures have been spoken about in all the usual ways, but the noises surrounding Leeds’ finest assets haven’t been anywhere near as loud. It seems inevitable, though, that certain players will garner attention in the summer transfer window and Illan Meslier will undoubtedly be one of those cropping up on the shopping lists of Europe’s elite clubs.
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Meslier’s name has been regularly seen in transfer gossip columns in recent seasons, with Manchester United and Chelsea just two of the clubs said to be keeping tabs on him. There was even some talk leading into the January window that a move could be on the cards for him, but nothing concrete emerged as United were able to focus most of their attentions on incomings rather than the threat of departures.
However, as the Frenchman comes to the end of his third full season as a Premier League regular, Leeds may well find themselves braced for the phone to start ringing.
The United number one’s appeal is clear to see. With 100 Premier League games under his belt already, he boasts experience that is rare in a 23-year-old goalkeeper. He’s been the preferred option between the sticks at Elland Road since his permanent switch to West Yorkshire from Lorient in 2020 and his progress in that time has been exceptional, proving the faith shown in him by Marcelo Bielsa and the Whites hierarchy was not misplaced.
The growth he has displayed this season though has been notable, responding from what was probably a difficult 2021-22 season to show maturity, character and personality. In fact, he’s been one of Leeds’ best and most reliable this year in their battle against relegation to the second tier to English football.
Performances at Liverpool and Newcastle United immediately jump out as player of the match worthy and while Leeds haven’t exactly been miserly at the back this season, Meslier has kept them in games at times with his performances. The positioning error he made at Everton is one of the only real blemishes on his record, but he responded in the perfect manner, by keeping a clean sheet in the very next game against Southampton.
His contract, running to 2026, puts Leeds in a relatively comfortable place for time being should enquiries be made in the coming months. The full strength of their position will be dictated by the league they will be competing in next season, though.
Right now, Leeds sit 14th in the Premier League table and they seem to be moving in the right direction under Javi Gracia, who has collected seven points from his first four league games in charge at Elland Road. However, they remain just two points off the bottom three and with 11 matches to be played, the threat of relegation is still very large and that would put the club well and truly on the back foot in transfer negotiations for Meslier or indeed any other key man.
Stay up and Leeds can safely dig their heels in and attempt to beat off those who may come calling for their goalkeeper. Go down and they may not have any other choice.
It’s not hard to understand why Meslier is one of Leeds’ most valuable assets, but interest is likely to come in summer whatever division the Whites find themselves competing in.
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