Gray or Gnonto rescue act at Leeds United would justify summer sale if new contract is a no-go

-Credit: (Image: MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With two years to run on his Leeds United contract, more appearances than Pablo Hernandez and another year in the Championship ahead, is this the summer Illan Meslier waves farewell? Reports linked the Frenchman with Marseille this week and while the Whites are yet to field anything official from Ligue 1, the interest on the Mediterranean coast is thought to be real.

From a business standpoint, Meslier either needs to be sold this summer or tied down to a new contract that protects his value. Whatever your stance on his qualities as a goalkeeper, 24-year-old stoppers with 203 senior appearances already under their belt drive a decent price in the transfer market.

If Meslier sees out another season with the Whites without signing a new contract, his value will plummet next summer as Leeds scramble to get any kind of fee before a 2026 release. Therefore, it needs to be a sale or new terms in the coming months, and if Meslier gives any indication he will not sign a new contract, Leeds would be wise to find a buyer before September 1.

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Meslier won the Golden Glove last season and he was the first person to underline that is a prize earned by the entire defence, if not the whole team, limiting shots on their goal. There were memorable saves in big games at Leicester City and against Norwich City in the play-off semi-final second leg.

However, after relegation and a particularly dispiriting time under Sam Allardyce, Meslier still had his troubles in the Championship. Distribution regularly raised eyebrows as well as Joe Rodon’s exasperated arms.

There have still been flaps at corners and high balls, as well as seemingly unnecessary risks with the ball at his feet when attackers are closing him down. Farke defended his goalkeeper, as any manager must in the media, but Meslier does not feel like one of the players in the squad that cannot be realistically improved on.

In a summer where Leeds, as Paraag Marathe admitted, need to sell players, Meslier, as a former France under-21 international still eight years away from his prime, with more than 200 senior appearances under his belt, could generate a good fee. If that fee then means Leeds can keep an Archie Gray or Wilfried Gnonto, it’s a move they should make.

Should the Whites win promotion next season, as everyone hopes, would Meslier be the goalkeeper they want to use in the Premier League again? Has Farke seen enough to believe he would need to strengthen that position next summer anyway, if they went up?

This is not an assassination piece on Meslier. Goalkeeper errors are more fatal than in any other position on the pitch, that’s just an occupational hazard the Frenchman has to live with. There have been good times on the pitch with United, particularly under Marcelo Bielsa.

He did dig out those aforementioned big saves last season and played his part, but, United’s priorities aside, does Meslier feel ready for a change? Marseille would take him back to his homeland and give him a chance to reset.

It is no secret Meslier was, at one stage, considered France’s future between the sticks, but the last few years have seen him fall away from that conversation. Returning home, after the pain of that Wembley loss, might be perfect timing.