Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier ‘rejected Chelsea’ after Blues had transfer bid accepted

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Illan Meslier has revealed he rejected the chance to join Chelsea after the Blues had a bid accepted for the goalkeeper in the summer of 2018. The 21-year-old enjoyed a fine debut season in the Premier League with Leeds last term after securing a permanent switch to Elland Road last summer, following a successful loan spell from Lorient.

Meslier played all but three (35) of the club’s 38 matches on their return to the top-flight, keeping 11 clean sheets in the process.

While he is yet to complete his physical development, Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa is under no illusions that Meslier is amongst the best young goalkeepers in Europe.

Yet Leeds were not the only club to identify his world-class potential following extensive scouting during his time with Lorient.

Monaco are said to have made a £10million bid for his services back in 2018 but Meslier did not want to leave Les Merlus without representing the first team after spending nine years in their academy.

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Chelsea then came calling and Lorient were prepared to sell the player following the Blues’ advances.

But Meslier has now detailed how he rejected the current European champions, in an interview with The Athletic.

“Chelsea agreed with Lorient and then asked me, ‘Are you ready?’ But it was 24 hours before the end of the window,” he said.

“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)?’.

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“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.”

Chelsea had made Kepa Arrizabalaga the world’s most expensive goalkeeper that summer, signing the Spanish shot-stopper for a record-breaking fee of £71m from Athletic Bilbao.

It would have limited Meslier’s first-team opportunities and at the time, his full focus was on breaking into the Lorient starting XI.

The decision eventually paid off and he would make 28 appearances in Ligue 2 that very season for his boyhood club.

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Leeds soon came calling, signing the player on an initial season-long loan from Lorient in the summer of 2019, securing an option to buy.

Meslier soon enhanced his reputation behind the scenes in Yorkshire by saving three penalties for the club’s Under-23s.

The France youth international was later handed his senior debut in the FA Cup third-round at Arsenal, turning in a brilliant performance against the Gunners.

He was then presented the chance to step up as No 1 following Kiko Casilla’s suspension and Meslier grasped the opportunity with both hands, helping Leeds keep seven clean sheets in their last 10 matches to secure the Championship title.

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