Andy Townsend has claimed this week that Leeds United should look to bring in a replacement for goalkeeper Illan Meslier this summer, as he does not believe it is viable to have a youngster between the sticks – but Nigel Martyn has disagreed with the pundit’s comments on LeedsUnited.News, and claimed that Frenchman Meslier could end up like Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas.
Meslier, 21, kept his tenth clean sheet in 32 Premier League appearances on Sunday afternoon as Leeds earned a point against Manchester United with a 0-0 draw. It saw Leeds stretch their unbeaten run to six games, having beaten Manchester City, Sheffield United and Fulham as well as drawing with Chelsea and Liverpool. Meslier has become the youngest goalkeeper to have earned 10 clean sheets in the Premier League.
The ex-Lorient stopper has added that record to the one that saw him break Joe Hart’s title of most Premier League clean sheets under the age of 21. But Townsend is not yet convinced by Meslier, and told Optus Sport’s Matchday Extra on Sunday evening that Leeds need a replacement: ““For me, I still have question marks about the goalkeeper. He’s a young boy, I think it is difficult having a young kid in between the posts for a team that are looking to maintain their Premier League status.”
But Leeds legend Martyn disagrees with Townsend. The ex-Leeds goalkeeper believes Meslier has been excellent for Leeds this season and that playing him this young will only benefit the player going forward – and his country. While admitting that he will make mistakes, Martyn believes it is the right thing to do to keep faith with a player that cost Leeds just £5million – and has already played 43 times for the Whites at senior level.
“I don’t know about that,” Martyn said, when asked about Townsend’s comments. “He’s a young lad, he’s got no fear because he’s so young. The confidence he needs to play out from the back, I tip my hat off to him to be honest. Andy Townsend has watched thousands of games over the years but I definitely want to keep hold of him [Meslier] and let him develop – there will be mistakes given his age but he will only develop into a better goalkeeper the more time he gets.”
Meslier’s form has been so impressive that the goalkeeper has even attracted interest from one of Europe’s biggest clubs, in the form of Mauricio Pochettino’s Paris Saint-Germain – according to The National. He continues to keep Kiko Casilla, a three-time Champions League winner and Spain international on the Leeds bench, with the former Real Madrid star enduring a difficult time at Elland Road since joining the club in 2019.
Continuing in his praise for Meslier, Martyn compared the current Leeds number one to that of Real Madrid legend Casillas – who broke into the Madrid side as a teenager and remained first choice until he left in 2015, 16 years after his debut for the club and with 725 appearances in all competitions to his name. He reckons that Meslier could reach the 400 mark by the time he is in his late twenties, because he has started so young.
“Look at Iker Casillas at Real Madrid, he got into the team at an early age and look at the career he had,” Martyn continues. “It is probably good for France going forward because he’s starting so young. Imagine how good he will be when gets to his late twenties, he might be on 300 or 400 games by then. With experience comes a better player. I think he has had a great season personally – but I don’t think I could look back on a season of mine where I haven’t made a mistake.”