The search for a potential replacement for Thibaut Courtois at Real Madrid continues, with the club closely monitoring the market for suitable options. One name that has recently emerged as a contender to guard the Real Madrid goal is Illian Meslier, the talented shot-stopper currently plying his trade at Leeds United in the Championship.
According to reliable sources, Real Madrid has compiled two lists of potential candidates to succeed Courtois. The first list comprises experienced and proven goalkeepers such as David De Gea and Yassine Bounou, while the second list explores younger and more cost-effective options, including Illian Meslier, who has caught the attention of the Madrid hierarchy.
Despite Leeds United’s upcoming campaign in the English second division, both the club and Meslier have spent the past three seasons competing in the Premier League. The French goalkeeper has been an undisputed starter during Leeds’ journey in the top flight, which has been marked by the team’s inconsistency, capable of displaying both brilliance and mediocrity.
The name Illian Meslier may ring a bell for English football enthusiasts, as he made an impressive start to his Premier League career. However, his performances suffered due to the club’s mismanagement in the last season, resulting in him conceding a high number of goals and becoming one of the most frequently beaten goalkeepers in the competition.
Meslier played a pivotal role in Leeds United’s return to the Premier League after a drought of over 16 years, contributing to their commendable 9th-place finish in the table. Marcelo Bielsa found in the young Frenchman a reliable presence between the posts, known for his ability to distribute the ball effectively, a quality highly valued by the Argentine coach.
In his debut season in the top flight, Meslier conceded 54 goals and kept 11 clean sheets, impressive numbers for a 20-year-old embarking on his professional dream. However, his subsequent two seasons were marred by a decline in Leeds’ overall performance. After narrowly avoiding relegation in the 2021/22 season, the team finally succumbed to the drop in the last campaign.
Meslier’s statistics in his final Premier League season do not present an ideal resume. He conceded a league-high 78 goals and, according to advanced metrics, ranked as the second-worst goalkeeper in terms of goals prevented, with a score of -12.4. This metric measures the quality of goalkeepers in crucial situations for their teams. To put it into context, Alisson, the best goalkeeper in terms of goals prevented, achieved a score of +10.1.
While it is challenging to compare any player to the likes of Courtois, who is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world alongside Ter Stegen, Meslier possesses physical attributes similar to the Belgian. Standing at an impressive 1.97 meters, Meslier’s towering presence allows him to dominate aerial duels and reach balls that would otherwise be out of reach for most goalkeepers.
Having been nurtured in the Lorient academy, Illian has always been characterized by his bravery, although at times, it has also been his Achilles’ heel. He does not shy away from taking risks when receiving the ball to initiate play, but this same confidence has occasionally led to costly errors that have resulted in dropped points for his team.
The good news for Real Madrid is that Meslier’s asking price is relatively affordable. A couple of seasons ago, it would have been difficult to pry him away from Elland Road, as several clubs from the English ‘Big Six’ expressed interest in his services. However, with Leeds United now in the Championship, Real Madrid could potentially secure his signature at a reasonable price, considering that he is still only 23 years old and has a promising future ahead.
Illian Meslier represents an intriguing prospect for Real Madrid as they seek a long-term solution in goal. While his recent performances may have been underwhelming, it is important to acknowledge his potential and the impact a change of environment and guidance from top-class coaches could have on his development. Real Madrid’s pursuit of Meslier could prove to be a shrewd move, offering them a talented young goalkeeper with room for growth and the potential to become a formidable presence between the sticks.