What does the future hold for Wilfried Zaha?
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Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace appeared to be a relationship which seems too perfect to break up. Zaha joined the Crystal Palace academy aged 12 and rose through the ranks, making his debut in 2010. 

At a time when the club's future looked uncertain, Zaha brought joy to Palace fans with his lightning pace and quick trickery, striking fear into opposition defences. 

Zaha, who was born in the Ivory Coast but moved to England aged 4, grew up just a stone's throw away from Selhurst Park. This allowed Palace fans to take to Zaha as one of their own and sing his name even louder than for the usual academy graduate who makes his way to the first team.

In January 2013, Zaha was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United for a club record transfer fee that could have potentially risen to £15 million. But the deal was only struck so that Zaha could return to Palace to help the Eagles end their eight year stint in the championship.

Zaha had completed his mission when he won the penalty in the playoff final that Kevin Phillips coolly slotted away to book Palace's place in the Premiership.

Zaha headed North to start his new challenge at Manchester United who had just be crowned Champions for the 13th time in their Premier League history.

Following his dream move, Zaha did not have the best of luck in his first few months; lack of playing time and allegations about his private life saw him quickly fall out of favour with new United boss David Moyes.

This resulted in Zaha leaving for Cardiff on loan for the rest of the 2013/14 season, but Zaha struggled to find any sort of form he had during his time in South East London.   

Zaha finally returned home to Palace in August 2014 on an initial season long loan before making it permanent in the winter, with Zaha committing to a five and a half year contract.

Zaha has been Palace's prize asset since his return on a full time basis; he has won three Player of The Year awards and has upped his goals and assist contributions season after season, with last season seeing Zaha hitting double figures for goals for the first time in his career.

His impressive performances saw Zaha gain recognition as arguably one of the best players outside the traditional top six of the Premier League. Feeling as if he had achieved everything he could with Palace, Wilfried Zaha looked to leave for a new challenge.

The summer and Zaha's fight to leave

As soon as the last ball was kicked at home to Bournemouth on the final day of last season, there was speculation linking the Ivory Coast international to a move away from Selhurst Park.

Everton, Arsenal and a potential deal with Chelsea once their transfer ban was lifted, were the destinations being thrown at Zaha to see if any would stick.

Arsenal turned out to be the most likely option with then manager Unai Emery who, being a big fan of Zaha, wanted to make him the marquee signing in the summer.

However, the deal was a tricky one for the Gunners to get across the line. Palace refused to budge on the asking price for Zaha due to his importance to the Eagles' Premier League integrity and the value that Palace had set was deemed to much.

Arsenal did end up signing an Ivory Coast winger but this was Nicolas Pepe, and yet the fee they paid was close to the asking price of Zaha; a deal was struck as Pepe's then club, Lille, was willing to accept the instalment payment plan. Palace wanted it all upfront, due to Manchester United being owed 25% of any sale of Wilfried Zaha. 

Once Zaha realised he was not going to get his move, helped by his then agent, Will Salthouse, they handed in a transfer request to try force a move to Everton who had a slight interest in a possible transfer. 

Nevertheless, no transfer materialised and Zaha was forced to stay with the Eagles for another year. After burning a few bridges, Zaha was eventually welcomed back with open arms, and has had a somewhat quiet season for his standards, with Jordan Ayew becoming the outlet Zaha had been so accustomed to.

It is now or never 

Zaha, furious with his agent Salthouse for not getting him a move away from Palace, fired him and replaced him with world renowned sports agent Pini Zahavi, who boasts a roster of players such as Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, and Porto left back Alex Telles. Zahavi is also known for helping Roman Abramovich complete his takeover of Chelsea.

As Zaha is nearing 28, a potential problem, which throws a spanner into the works for any club looking to sign Zaha, is the 5 year contract extension he signed in 2018. The contract made Zaha Palace's highest earner which was a sum other clubs may feel like the winger is potentially not worth. 

A likely destination for Wilfried Zaha in the summer could be Chelsea with a potential swap deal with former Palace loanee Michy Batshuayi, who impressed during his time at Palace last season. This would also help bring down the transfer fee should Chelsea have concerns about the asking price from Palace.   

Another option for Zaha could be playing abroad; Bayern Munich took a slight interest but the offer was batted away due to it being a loan. Paris Saint Germain and Borussia Dortmund were linked in the past too and would likely become interested if Zaha was to become available.

Should no transfer come to fruition in the not too distant future, it looks inevitable that Zaha could see out the rest of his career at the club he made his name with. 

Zaha is arguably Palace's most influential player ever; he has been the figurehead in helping the Eagles rise from the ashes of Championship despair to being a big hitter amongst Premier League elite.

Whether Wilfried Zaha stays or leaves come the summer, all associated with Crystal Palace will hold the academy graduate in high regard. He has been the centre of historic moments at the club over the last decade and helped the club grow into the stable Premier League outfit it is today.

 

 

 

 

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