Wilfried Zaha, the home-grown England international and long-time darling of the Selhurst Park faithful, walked into the Crystal Palace manager’s office at the club’s Beckenham training ground this morning to request a transfer.
The 23-year-old winger’s formal request – which was confirmed by the player’s agent – opened the way for an immedate £15million bid from Tottenham Hotspur. After a couple of phone calls to New York, where the club’s co-chairman, Steve Parish, is on a business trip, the offer was rejected.
But with Spurs urgently needing to bolster their squad ahead of a season when they will be expected to challenge in the Premier League while also taking on a tough group in the Champions League, the pace and potential of Zaha seems likely to bring them back with further bids ahead of the transfer window closing next week.
The news will have stunned many of the Holmesdale faithful. But other supporters were unsurprised.
So why does Zaha want away?
It’s certainly not from having deep and meaningful discussions with Palace new boy Andros Townsend about life at White Hart Lane.
But it does have a lot to do with Zaha, a product of Palace’s youth academy, eyeing the weekly wage packets of the likes of the club’s star signings Yohan Cabaye and Christian Benteke, and thinking that he, too, ought to be worth more than £35,000 per week (if you read the end of that sentence quickly, the amounts in discussion might not seem quite so obscene).
Zaha, of course, has left Selhurst once before, soon after he’d won his second nd last (to date) England caps, when he was one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signings for Manchester United, for an amount similar to that offered today. And that worked out so well, too. Not.
Palace have made it clear that, after cashing in to the tune of £25 million for Yannick Bolasie, they are not about to flog off another of the flying wingers that helped get them to the FA Cup final last season.
Zaha is one of a clutch of players – Jason Puncheon, James McArthur and Wayne Hennessey being among the others – who have contract talks with the club which were not resolved over the summer, but which are expected to be settled in the next few weeks. The apparent interest of a club playing in the Champions League will make the work of Zaha’s agent in the negotiations a good deal easier – which is probably why they were so keen to put details of today’s to-ing and fro-ing out to the media today.
But if the agents want to engineer their seven-figure commission on any Zaha transfer, they will have to overcome opposition from Parish. Zaha, as a Palace product, has become a bit of a favourite of the most influential figure at the club.
Zaha does need to win over the faith of his manager. Alan Pardew is reported to have had an occasionally strained relationship with the mercurial player, who can frustrate those coaching his side. The player’s stats over the last couple of seasons demonstrate why: in 2014-2015, Zaha scored four goals from 31 appearances, with two assists; last season, from 34 games, he scored twice and made just one assist.
With club record signing Benteke now at the club to score the goals that will drag Palace out of the relegation form that they have been in since last November, if Zaha does achieve an improved contract, the club may want to ensure that it is heavily incentivised to get the player to start to provide the “end product” which has lately been missing from his game lately.
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