Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier has opened up on his decision to spurn Chelsea as a teenager, stating that he turned down the Blues in part due to the timing of their approach.
The 21-year-old joined the Whites from Lorient on a season-long loan deal in 2019, usurping Kiko Casilla as first-choice shot-stopper late in their Championship-winning campaign, before taking the starting spot for their first year back in the Premier League last term on a permanent contract.
Yet the France youth starlet came close to a previous move to England a year prior, when Chelsea almost locked up his services in the summer of 2018 – and now, the talented keeper has opened up on why he passed up on the switch.
What has been said?
“Chelsea agreed with Lorient and then asked me, ‘Are you ready?’,” Meslier told The Athletic “But it was 24 hours before the end of the window.
“I said, ‘No, it’s too late, man! If you’d come one or two weeks earlier then I might have said yes. I can’t sign for you so late’.
“It was a difficult decision. Chelsea are a big club. You would ask me, ‘Why not [go]?’. But there are lots of keepers in Chelsea’s academy.
“It’s very hard to grow up there and sometimes you sign and you have to go on loan, things like that. It’s better, I think, to work in your club and then sign to be a No 1 at 24, 25. Not at 18 years old.”
Meslier key to Leeds’ sophomore push
In his first fixed season on a three-year deal at Elland Road, Meslier was at the core of Leeds’ push towards the top half of the table, ultimately helping Marcelo Bielsa’s side secure a ninth-place finish, just outside European qualification.
He was awarded the club’s Young Player of the Season Award for his performances, and with Casilla’s exit to Elche on loan recently confirmed, looks to now be uncontested as first-choice in West Yorkshire.
Meslier will be expected to start when Leeds get their new campaign underway against rivals Manchester United on August 14 in their sophomore season back in the Premier League.