Huge opportunity for Leeds United's Illan Meslier after major player development but new 'rival'

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A huge opportunity has presented itself for Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier after a major player development involving one of the game’s stars.

Meslier has been capped at every youth level by France from under-18s all the way up to the under-21s but the Leeds no 1 has yet to receive a call-up to the senior squad despite his impressive displays for the Whites. The 22-year-old was tipped in some quarters as a possible for the France World Cup squad but Meslier missed out as boss Didier Deschamps went with West Ham United's Alphonse Areola and Rennes stopper Steve Mandanda as the back-ups to his clear first choice custodian and captain in Tottenham Hotspur's Hugo Lloris.

AC Milan’s Mike Maignan was expected to be in the squad having already been capped five times for his country but the 27-year-old had been suffering with a calf injury ahead of the competition in Qatar and did not make the squad.

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Lloris started every game at the World Cup en route to the final aside from the group stage finale against Tunisia ahead of which France were already through but Lloris has now announced his international retirement at 36 years of age. Mandada, who is 37 years old, got the call to start France's group stage finale against Tunisia.

BIG CHANCE: For Leeds United keeper Illan Meslier. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images.BIG CHANCE: For Leeds United keeper Illan Meslier. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images.
BIG CHANCE: For Leeds United keeper Illan Meslier. Photo by George Wood/Getty Images.

West Ham stopper Areola is 29 years old but has bagged just five outings for the France senior team since making his debut back in September 2018. Lille’s Lucas Chevalier, Bristol City’s Stefan Bajic and Hull City’s Thimothée Lo-Tutala are the current keepers for France's under-21s for whom Meslier has represented nine times. FC Nantes keeper Alban Lafont has made 14 appearances for France's under-21s and already had a senior call up.

France, who lost the World Cup final on penalties to Argentina, will return to action in March when they begin their European Championships qualifiers with a home game against Netherlands and away clash against the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking about his decision to retire, Lloris highlighted Maignan as the next natural replacement, telling L'Equipe: “There comes a time when you have to know how to pass the hand. I don't want to make it my own, I've always said and repeated that the France team doesn't belong to anyone, and we all have to make sure that's the case, me first. I think that behind, the team is ready to continue, there is also a goalkeeper who is ready [Maignan]. I prefer to go out being at the top than to wait for a drop in speed, or too much competition. There is also a family choice, I feel the need to spend more time with my wife and my children."