By George Overhill

17th Mar, 2023 | 12:40pm

Illan Meslier has once again been overlooked for a call up to the full French national team squad and with it likely moved one step closer to a Leeds United exit.

Didier Deschamps’ latest Bleus selection was announced on Thursday afternoon (16 March) and with former captain Hugo Lloris having retired following defeat in the World Cup final in December, along with Marseille legend Steve Mandanda, the Whites star will have been hoping for the nod.

But it is uncapped former Nottingham Forest man Brice Samba who has joined West Ham’s Alphonse Areola and AC Milan’s Mike Maignan, meaning Meslier will have to be content with the under-21s once more as he looks to add his 10th cap at that age level, and a 22nd overall.

Despite sitting on 99 Premier League appearances in West Yorkshire 23-year-old Meslier remains within touching distance of the senior squad but despite the top two men who were blocking his way removing themselves from the selection pool he remains on the brink.

However, that hasn’t stopped him landing in the sights of top flight giants Chelsea and Manchester United with a view to the transfer window, with both linked in the past month.

The Blues have him on their shortlist for a possible summer move amid a contract stalemate with Senegal international Edouard Mendy [Times, 14 March], while attempts to reduce David de Gea’s wages at Old Trafford have them lining up a bid for the Leeds United man [Sun, 18 February].

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Samba is enjoying a career season for Lens at 28 after leaving the City Ground, keeping 10 clean sheets for the side third in Ligue 1 and fighting for the Champions League, having not been capped while getting promoted with Forest, or in previously getting relegated from the French top flight with Caen.

Meslier hasn’t angled for a move despite the transfer speculation gradually increasing ever since the Whites made it back to the top flight, but seeing how Samba’s fortunes have changed since his summer move to a club battling towards the top of the league will only add to the temptation for a move.

Back-to-back relegation battles in West Yorkshire will have been draining enough on him, and if this one is lost under Javi Gracia keeping him at the club will be a lost cause anyway, so if multiple Premier League-winners come calling it is going to be inviting to make the step up.

With L’Equipe suggesting on 14 March that Nantes’ Alban Lafont and Lille’s Lucas Chevalier also may be ahead of the Elland Road standout he is only going to feel more pressure to get an edge over the competition.

Jordan Pickford may have remained England’s number one throughout Everton’s own battles with relegation, and was once again named by Gareth Southgate on Thursday, but working in his favour was the fact that he had already made the breakthrough before the Toffees really began to struggle.

Toiling towards the foot of the table, and having only kept 21 Premier League clean sheets in the best part of three years as a starter behind an-often flimsy defence, can’t be helping Meslier’s cause to jump up to the senior squad, while standing behind hundreds of millions of pounds of defensive recruits at Stamford Bridge might do so.

Perhaps the six foot six giant feels enough loyalty to Leeds United that he rebuffs interest this summer, but if he has his mind set on the national team he will have seen enough examples of the Jack Grealish effect, where a player on the cusp moves to a top side and instantly gets regular call-ups, to now push him towards the exit if offers come in after the season ends.

In other Leeds United news, Simon Jordan has alluded to chaos behind the scenes at Elland Road with Andrea Radrizzani close to leaving.

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