Why Leeds United’s ‘brilliant’ Illan Meslier will just keep on getting better - Rob Green

IN HIS role as a respected football pundit these days, Rob Green has a natural discerning eye when the subject turns to goalkeepers.

One of his old clubs in Leeds United currently possess a gem, in his view, in Illan Meslier – and if anyone needs further affirmation of that fact, it will be emphatically confirmed by those who know him best, his team-mates.

Education following a fine debut season in the Premier League has continued apace with a recent first outing for France Under-21s in knock-out football with Meslier part of the Les Bleus side who bowed out of the European Under-21s Championships to the Netherlands in a 2-1 quarter-final defeat in Budapest on Monday.

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That a French side containing the likes of new Liverpool signing Ibrahima Konate, Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Lyon midfielder and Arsenal target Houssem Aouar exited to the Dutch constituted a surprise.

BRIGHT FUTURE: Leeds United goalkeeper, Illan Meslier. Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Expect plenty more to be heard about a group of emerging talents in the seasons to come and if Meslier’s upward trajectory continues, it is unlikely to be too long before he starts to push Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda and Mike Maignan in the senior ranks.

Meslier, like most young goalkeepers, has been prone to the odd mistake in playing out from the back, as is the current fashion. Green has seen enough to recognise that it won’t knock him in the slightest and in a strong season, his capability to bounce back and the accompanying mentality has shone through.

The former England international goalkeeper told The Yorkshire Post: “He (Meslier) has been brilliant; fantastic.

“It will be interesting to see how he does when crowds come back. But again, playing in goal and in such a way where you are at the extreme all the time, you are prone to playing errors.

WHO, ME? Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier prior to the Premier League match at Goodison Park last season. Picture: Clive Brunskill/PA

“Being on the edge at playing out from the back like they (Leeds) do under pressure, it is going to go wrong at times.

“He’s coped with that admirably and has the technique to do it.

“As Luke Ayling said to me: ‘If he was English, everyone would be raving about him.’ He is an amazing kid and only 21.”

Following an outstanding return to the top-flight which has justifiably been bestowed with plenty of bouquets, Leeds will rightly be viewed as an enviable destination for prospective signings this summer.

KEEP THE FAITH: Former Leeds United goalkeeper Rob Green. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

A big club travelling in the right direction again, the prospect of working with one of world football’s luminaries in Marcelo Bielsa – a venerated figure who, quite simply, makes players better – represents a huge selling point.

The byword for Leeds – who recently said goodbye to Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi, with Gjanni Alioski also potentially moving – will be quality. They will choose from a position of strength following an excellent ninth-placed finish.

Green, a league ever-present at Leeds during the 2016-17 campaign, commented: “He (Bielsa) is very particular in who he brings in and it is whether he can get those right people as he does not want to work with a squad of 25, but 17 or 18.

“As good as it’s been for them, it is going to be a key summer.

FLYING HIGH: Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier makes a save against West Ham at Elland Road in December. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“You look at Raphinha coming here and if they have money to spend with it and give it a go to get the right individuals in, he (Bielsa) will attract the right people. That is the thing and he will get the people in who want to be at Leeds for being at Leeds and see it as a real place to showcase themselves.

“Because you play on the limit and at 100 per cent all the time and that is why Raphinha has looked so good – everything has played in his favour.”

As for Leeds’s head-turning league finish on their return to the big time, Green is not surprised one bit and cites a telling reason why from a former players’ perspective.

It centres around benefiting from the extra time afforded them in terms of training-ground work in comparison to frenetic life in the Championship.

Time has been used intelligently and skilfully, two words which are never far away when talk centres on Bielsa.

Green added: “I have been surprised that everyone has been surprised they have done what they have. Leeds have their style regardless of who they are playing. Bielsa does this; this is what he does and he has always done this. This is how he prepares his team and that is what they go and do.

“The only surprise was when they played against Manchester City at the Etihad and they defended. They got down to ten men and had to defend. I have spoken to the lads in there and they have loved it and it has been brilliant.

“They have also said that it has been tough because there has been more training as there have been less games.

“With the way he works them in training, they’d rather have the games!”

Former England international Rob Green and legendary striker Dean Windass are helping football fans around Great Britain take control of their energy spending while also encouraging everyone to do their bit to help upgrade our outdated energy system by getting a smart meter – paving the way for smarter homes and more integration of renewables like wind and solar.

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