Bielsa, Orta green light double transfer swoop for Leeds
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa is reported to have given the thumbs up to the signing of two players for his squad.
The Whites, currently top of the Championship table and seven points clear of third-placed Fulham with just nine games to play, are waiting to find out what division they will be playing in next season, or indeed when the current campaign can be concluded.
Nonetheless, United are still pushing ahead with their transfer plans and the Yorkshire giants are ready to push through a £5m deal for young keeper Illan Meslier, who has caught the eye since stepping into the breach in place of suspended goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
The young Frenchman moved to Elland Road last summer on a season-long loan but had to wait until the FA Cup third-round clash at Arsenal in early January to make his debut for the club.
However, Meslier has not disappointed with the keeper keeping two clean sheets in his two Championship starts to date – the 4-0 win at Hull and the 2-0 home success over Huddersfield last time out – making him the first league debutant keeper to keep successive clean sheets in his first two games for the club since Ian Bennett back in season 2005/06.
Leeds have the option to make his deal a permanent one for £5million and a report last month claimed they had until mid-May to activate the £5m clause in his contract or risk the player going back on the market and a possible options for other suitors.
And according to the Daily Express, Bielsa rates Meslier as one of the best young keepers in Europe and believes his permanent signing makes perfect sense form the club.
Speaking after the 4-0 win at Hull on February 29, Bielsa said of the 20-year-old Frenchman: “He was calm and confident and he took risks.
“He gave us the feeling that he’s confident.”
Former Leeds keeper Paul Robinson, meanwhile, has admitted he’s been impressed by what he has seen from the young keeper.
“I think with his age and stature that Meslier will grow and become a top goalkeeper at Leeds,” he told MOT Leeds News.
“His distribution is excellent although he’s not shown that in the first two games that he’s played.
“He’s not been tested either but he’s got the clean sheets, which will build his confidence up.
“You look at his clean sheets and his stature and there’s absolutely no reason why he can’t grow into the player that everyone at the club knows he can be.
“If that carries on until the end of the season then I see it being a formality that he signs on a permanent deal and he could be a real bargain.”
In addition to Meslier, the Daily Star claims Leeds are also pushing ahead with their plan to bring in Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala.
We told you back in November that the towering Spaniard had emerged as a Leeds target, with the player well known to director of football Victor Orta from his days at the Riverside.
Ayala is out of contract this summer and will leave the Riverside even if Boro avoid relegation into League One.
Leeds are looking for quality additions to their backline amid concerns they won’t be able to keep impressive young loan star Ben White beyond his temporary deal. He’s been linked with Liverpool, among others, while parent club Brighton are adamant his future remains at the Amex Stadium.
The 29-year-old Ayala started his career at Liverpool but has spent more than six years on Teesside, where he has clocked up just shy of 200 appearances for Boro.
Standing at 6ft 3in, the Seville-born star has proved a tricky opponent for Leeds over recent years and, despite interest from Fulham and Norwich, it’s thought he favours a move to Leeds and the chance to work under the tutelage of Bielsa.
Meanwhile, Kalvin Phillips has sent Leeds fans a dream message over his future amid claims he has been the subject of more interest from Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham.