"Honestly for a long time I haven't seen a young player like him" - Marcelo Bielsa on his Kiko Casilla back-up at Leeds United
Illan Meslier has met Marcelo Bielsa’s expectations to make himself Leeds United’s back-up plan if Kiko Casilla is banned by the FA over racism allegations.
The Whites are still awaiting the verdict of Casilla’s hearing but Bielsa is confident that, should his number one goalkeeper be rendered unavailable through suspension, he has an adequate replacement waiting in the wings.
The hearing into allegations that Casilla made a racist remark towards Jonathan Leko during Leeds’ game at Charlton back in September, began in London yesterday.
Back at Thorp Arch, Bielsa confirmed that Leeds were prepared to adapt, if necessary. He said: “It’s a situation we have to resolve. It’s correct we adapt ourselves [to]the way they decide to resolve this situation.”
According to Bielsa, the Spanish goalkeeper’s behaviour this week in the lead-up to his hearing was ‘absolutely normal’. But Leeds could find themselves without his services for six games, should the disciplinary panel find against him. The Whites’ resolution to the potential problem is a French 19-year-old, who joined United on a loan deal last summer from Ligue 2 outfit Lorient and has done what has been required of him in Under-23s action and his single first-team appearance – in the FA Cup at Arsenal – to put himself in the frame.
“Meslier is the option if Kiko doesn’t play,” said Bielsa. “In this situation or in others. When he plays his direction has been in line with our expectations.”
Bielsa recently revealed just how highly he rates Meslier, when discussing the form of Casilla and what formed the head coach’s decision making process over Casilla and his starting place, after some high profile mistakes.
The former Real Madrid man was backed to stay in net by Bielsa because he kept confidence in himself and retained the confidence of his fellow first -team members, not because there was a lack of an attractive alternative option in the squad.
“We have this player, I am talking about Meslier, honestly for a long time I didn’t see a young player like him with resources like him,” said the Argentine.
“You also verified this against Arsenal.”
Meslier impressed on his debut at the Emirates, in a 1-0 defeat that saw Leeds dominate the Premier League side in the first half.
The teen’s distribution caught the eye in particular, with several diagonal passes to the flanks that allowed the Whites to build attacks from deep.
He is yet to play Championship football, but did make 28 Ligue 2 appearances last season for Lorient.