'There is no way to think about leaving' - Illan Meslier's agent on Leeds United goalkeeper's past, present and future
In last week’s win over Southampton Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier kept his eighth Premier League clean sheet of the season – eclipsing Joe Hart’s record for a stopper under 21.
In his 35 league appearances for Leeds, in both the Premier League and Championship, Meslier has recorded 15 clean sheets.
Whether that return is from a goalkeeper who has just turned 21 years of age, like Meslier, or a Premier League veteran, it is a serious achievement, especially for anyone who has played in England for less than 18 months.
Meslier’s talent is clear to see, and as the youngest starting goalkeeper in any of Europe’s main leagues, it’s easy to wonder how Leeds managed to lure him to the Championship at the start of last season and why he wasn’t snapped up by of any of Europe’s big hitters.
Speaking with the LUFCFANZONE Podcast, Meslier’s agent, Xavier Fleury, a partner of Yvon Pouliquen and part of the YPFC Agency, revealed that the youngster had options from some of Europe’s elite just 12 months before his switch to Elland Road.
Fleury revealed was interest from both Chelsea and Monaco when Meslier was playing regularly for Lorient – a side he joined aged nine.
“Both me and Illan believed that there was a greater chance of Illan playing in the first team at Lorient than at either Monaco or Chelsea”, said Fleury.
“We knew there was a lot of interest but both Monaco and Chelsea wanted Illan for the future – for example, although the talks never reached a concrete stage, Chelsea wanted to buy Illan and send him on loan for a number of years. Because of this, we thought it wasn’t a good idea because Illan needed to settle at a club and play. This would not have been the case.
“As a goalkeeper you need to be number one, if you’re not then you can sit on the bench for years.
“To leave for Chelsea or Monaco for more money, but to not play first team football and to be away from his family was not a good offer for Illan who, at the time, had regular first team football in his path at Lorient.”
Although originally Meslier joined Leeds on loan from Lorient and began life at Leeds in the side’s under 23s, there were assurances that he was seen as a prospective number one.
“For all of our clients it is important that they play matches regularly. Not only does this benefit the player, but it also benefits the club as their player becomes more valuable from their experience. Illan is a perfect example of this.”
The young Frenchman has now cemented himself as Leeds’ first choice goalkeeper for their first season back in the top flight. His form has drawn interest from elsewhere, says Fleury, but he only has eyes for the club that gave him his Premier League chance.
“For sure there are some big clubs that are interested and following Illan, but right now he is in Leeds," said Fleury.
“He is starting, and that is the bottom line – the most we can ask for. He loves the club, and he has settled in really well.
“I think if Leeds keep the sporting director, the coach, and the players keep improving year after year like they are doing, I think the president (Andrea Radrizzani) could be right and Leeds could be in the Champions League quickly.
“If Leeds are in the Champions League, I think it would be more beautiful for Illan to challenge for trophies at a club like Leeds as opposed to winning leagues at clubs like Real Madrid, Juventus, or Bayern.
“Football is all about emotion; you can say okay I’ll play for Real Madrid, Bayern, or Juventus, but it’s about achieving something that is not expected, and to do that at Leeds with Bielsa would be amazing, and there is no way to think about leaving.”