By George Overhill

21st Dec, 2022 | 11:10am

David de Gea development pushes Manchester United a step closer to Leeds United star Illan Meslier

Leeds United could be a step closer to an approach from Manchester United for Illan Meslier after they chose not to pick up David de Gea’s contract option.

The Spanish keeper is currently playing on the last year of a £375,000-a-week deal at Old Trafford and the club want him to take a significant pay cut to stay [Telegraph, 20 December].

According to The Times on Wednesday [21 December] they remain in talks with the 32-year-old over a new short-term deal, despite deciding against automatically extending his current contract for a year, as they have with the likes of Marcus Rashford.

Whites star Meslier has been reported as a possible replacement target as recently as 12 December by Media Foot, while The Athletic reported on 12 August that he was seen as a long-term alternative.

With De Gea’s deal entering the final six months he will be eligible to speak to other clubs over a pre-contract for when he is available in the summer, so any agreement in that form would negate the negotiations he is currently having in Manchester.

Erik ten Hag’s side currently has Tom Heaton as back up, with Martin Dubravka on loan from Newcastle, while Dean Henderson is on loan at Nottingham Forest and has repeatedly been overlooked in favour of sticking with the incumbent number one.

The last place Leeds United fans would like to see Meslier headed is Old Trafford, even if they are braced for interest to increase hugely over the next couple of seasons.

Hugo Lloris’ future as France keeper is in question following defeat in the World Cup final, with Les Bleus’ captain due to turn 36 on Boxing Day, and his retirement is likely to see Meslier elevated into the senior set up under Didier Deschamps.

For a 22-year-old who has already made over 100 appearances since his arrival at Elland Road, with extensive experience in the Premier League, Meslier represents a rare target.

A combination of youth and experience, and arguably one of the three most important players in the Leeds squad, full international appearances will raise his standing further.

And a gap that needs filling at Man United is not what the Whites want if that turns their old rivals’ attentions towards Meslier.

De Gea and his employers currently look headed for a divorce, and they are sure to test the Leeds resolve if that comes to pass, as will others in due course, so the latest development isn’t a comfortable one for fans in West Yorkshire.

In other Leeds United news, Jesse Marsch has reacted to “infuriating” Emi Martinez’s latest antics at the World Cup.