Former Leeds United striker Noel Whelan has backed Illan Meslier to step up and take Kiko Casilla’s place in Marcelo Bielsa’s plans, should the Football Association suspend the Spaniard.
Casilla is still awaiting a decision on the FA’s investigation into allegations the one-time international racial abused Charlton Athletic’s Jonathan Leko, during the Addicks’ 1-0 win in late September.
It is alleged Casilla used words that “made reference to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin” during the Championship meeting, and was granted extra time in November to respond to the charge.
Should Casilla be found guilty, the ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper faces a minimum six-match suspension under rules introduced for the 2019/20 season, which can be increased depending on any additional aggravating factors.
Losing Casilla for a lengthy period of our promotion-chasing campaign could be catastrophic, with Bielsa so far only naming the 33-year-old in goal for league games.
Whelan, though, is confident that we can survive the potential suspension after seeing on-loan FC Lorient ‘keeper Meslier in action against Arsenal in the FA Cup on Monday night.
“For such a young lad, stepping in on such a big stage, I thought his ball distribution [and] the way he handled himself was a real credit to himself and the faith Marcelo Bielsa’s put in him,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“If there is a ban that comes for Kiko Casilla, we now know we’ve got a more than capable young goalkeeper who can fill his boots. That’s where people’s biggest worry is, if a ban comes Kiko Casilla’s way and it is a lengthy ban, what do we have in replacement.
“Well, I think everybody saw Monday night [that] his ball distribution and confidence between the sticks fills us with great optimism that if there is a ban, we have somebody more than capable [of stepping in].”
Do we need to sign a goalkeeper, or can Meslier deputise for Casilla?
Sign a goalkeeper
Give Meslier a chance
Bielsa awarded Meslier his Leeds debut at the Emirates Stadium on Monday, and while the 19-year-old would be beaten in the second half, he often withstood the pressure presented by the Gunners with relative ease and great composure to not wilt under the lights.
Meslier was tidy with both his feet and hands in North London, with the £4.5million-rated shot-stopper making four saves from five shots faced and finding a teammate with 32 of his 39 passes, per WhoScored data.
The teenager also recorded one collection and parried three saves, and crucially did not make an error that led to Arsenal running riot.
Should Meslier produce more performances like his at the Emirates, it will not be long before club chiefs at Elland Road begin considering activating our option to purchase the Lorient man in the summer.
In other Leeds United news, the club are reportedly set to beat Premier League competition to a 6 ft 3 signing.