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‘It’s too late’ – Leeds’ Illan Meslier opens up on rejecting Chelsea

By Conor Laird Published: August 5, 2021 4:56 pm

Last Updated: August 5, 2021 9:31 pm

Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier has, on Thursday, confirmed that he rejected the advances of another Premier League club – in the form of Chelsea – early in his fledgling career.

Peacocks stint Frenchman Meslier has been on the books at Elland Road since the summer of 2019.

The shot-stopper initially linked up with the Whites on loan from long-time club Lorient, viewed at the time as little more than a backup to first-choice Kiko Casilla.

As the season progressed, however, Meslier’s talents began to shine through, eventually leaving Marcelo Bielsa with little choice but to hand the youngster a chance to impress on a consistent basis.

He subsequently went on to end the campaign as Leeds’ no.1, and has since only gone from strength to strength in the Premier League, after being snapped up on a permanent basis for a measly £5 million.

This past season, Meslier started in all but three of the club’s 38 league outings, keeping 11 clean sheets, and playing a key role in Leeds’ eventual top-half finish.

Leeds have a top young goalkeeper in Illan Meslier 🧤

He only cost them £5 million 👀pic.twitter.com/IDmWQ7MXi9

— Goal (@goal) November 30, 2020

‘Can’t sign for you’ Such fine form, at the age of just 21, though, was always likely to see the attentions of some of European football’s heavyweights piqued.

Earlier this year, for example, it was reported in Meslier’s home country of France that Paris Saint-Germain were giving genuine consideration to a swoop for the shot-stopper.

Such a move, evidently, has since failed to develop, with the Ligue 1 giants having instead opted to bring in Euro 2020 standout Gianluigi Donnarumma.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 11: Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy reacts after being awarded by Aleksander Ceferin, President of UEFA with the “Player of the Tournament” award after the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium on July 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

As outlined above, though, had it not been for Meslier’s strong will, the Frenchman could in fact have been plying his trade with one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs for several years now.

Speaking in an interview with The Athletic this week, Meslier was drawn on the early years of his career, and went on to reveal that, at 18, he rejected the opportunity to link up with Chelsea.

This came after the Blues left it until the last minute of the 2018 summer transfer window to strike a deal with then-club Lorient:

‘Chelsea agreed with Lorient and then asked me, ‘Are you ready?’  ‘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’.

The Leeds standout continued:

‘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.’

Illan Meslier says that he almost signed for Chelsea in 2018 😯

Did he make the right decision? 👀 pic.twitter.com/uodPF7qKMy

— Goal (@goal) August 5, 2021

Read more: Chelsea transfer news: Lukaku update, Kounde still wanted, Abraham’s Italy move Leeds transfer news: O’Brien update, fee needed to sign Matheus Cunha & Real Madrid star linked This article was edited by Ben Browning.

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