Tony Cascarino reckons Leeds keeper Illan Meslier has the confidence and the ability to one day become France No 1.
Despite coming for some criticism this season, Meslier has kept nine clean sheets in 27 games for Leeds. His latest, a 0-0 shutout against Chelsea, saw the stopper make eight saves in the game.
The keeper also broke the long-standing record of Joe Hart by reaching eight sheets in the Premier League before his 21st birthday.
Meslier, oddly, came in for some criticism last month after making a high-profile mistake in the match at Arsenal. Marcelo Bielsa, however, was quick to defend his keeper by drawing reference to Jurgen Klopp and Alisson Becker.
Leeds’ style of play, however, sees them take risks. The 21-year-old though has not let Leeds down. Indeed, only West Brom’s Sam Johnstone (115) has made more saves than Meslier (110) this season.
Such has been his performances for Leeds that Cascarino has labelled his job “the most demanding in the Premier League”. Furthermore, he insists the confident, young keeper has the ability to reach the very top.
“Few players in the Premier League have a more demanding job than Illan Meslier,” he wrote for The Times.
“Aged just 21, the Leeds United goalkeeper has had to master Marcelo Bielsa’s high-octane style of play which requires him to think quickly with his feet under pressure.
“He has made a fair few mistakes this season but they do not seem to have knocked his confidence. If anything, the experience has made him a better goalkeeper and with every passing week he is looking more assured.
“Meslier’s ability to keep cool under pressure comes from his formative years at Lorient in France where he competed in the youth cup aged 15 up against 20-year-old men.
“It is exciting to think how good he could become. Meslier stands at 6ft 6in and still has a wiry frame.
“As he continues to grow and develop his upper body strength, he will become an even more fearsome physical presence in the box.
“I think [we] are looking at the future No 1 for the French national team.”
Meslier aims to keep progressing
Meslier, speaking last month, outlined his ambitions to keep improving under Bielsa at Leeds.
“Big changes and big progression,” he told LUTV of what the past 12 months have been like for him.
“Very happy because one year ago I started my first game in the Championship and now I am at 22 games in the Premier League.
“Of course, it is good, I am happy, but I want to continue in this way because it is important for me.
“It is just the beginning of my career and I cannot stop now.
“I need to keep working, training but I am happy for the team because last year we were in the Championship and now we are in the Premier League.
“So, it is good progression for everyone.”
At his age, Meslier still has plenty of developing to do. While he is unsure about what his specific targets for improvement are, he knows one statistic against his name that he wants to reduce.
“I do not know, it is difficult,” he replied when asked for a target for the next 12 months.
“I try to find the best of me in every game, but it is true, it is not easy.
“But yes, I want to concede less goals of course.”