By Jonty Banks

11th Jan, 2023 | 6:10am

Leeds United star Illan Meslier now ready for France number one shirt amid Hugo Lloris retirement

Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier can stake his claim on the France number one shirt after Hugo Lloris announced his international retirement.

The Spurs shot-stopper, who had made a record 145 appearances for Les Blues and captained his country to their 2018 World Cup triumph in Russia, announced he would step down from the national side on Monday (9 January).

This has left the door open for Meslier, who has been capped at every youth level by France from the Under-18s through to the Under-21s and has shone for the Whites in the Premier League this season.

The 22-year-old’s heroics this term have left chins wagging among Europe’s elite clubs, who are now circling the young keeper with regards to signing him in the near future.

Despite being tipped to make Didier Deschamps’ Qatar World Cup squad, many at Elland Road were left disappointed as West Ham’s Alphonse Areola, and Rennes stopper Steve Mandanda were preferred.

However, Mandanda is now 37 years old and won’t be around the French squad for too much longer, while Areola is playing second fiddle to Lukasz Fabianski at the London Stadium – so the door is ajar for Meslier to stake his claim.

AC Milan’s Mike Maignan seems to be the Leeds ace’s main competition for a spot in-between the sticks for France, with the 27-year-old only missing out on the World Cup squad due to a calf injury he sustained in the build-up.

After impressing this term for the Whites, he looks a different player from the one who arrived at Elland Road on loan in 2019, and Meslier now has the quality to step up to the mark.

It’s clear Leeds have one of the hottest prospects in the Premier League in their ranks, and the 22-year-old has pulled out man-of-the-match performances when his side have most needed them.

The amazing wins over Chelsea and Liverpool were both punctuated by a string of brilliant stops from the United number one, and his handy wingspan in one-on-one scenarios has also proven a huge asset.

Meslier is clearly only in the opening chapter of his burgeoning career, and his next step is to lay claim to the France goalkeeping starter’s spot.

In other Leeds United news, the Whites are closely involved in the bidding for an international striker and are even prepared to spend £14million to secure his services.