The relationship between Wilfried Zaha and Crystal Palace Football Club is coming to an unsavoury end. The ten year on and off rendezvous between the pair has seen spectacular highs, and at times, profound lows.
The rise of the Eagles, from the pit of the Championship to the glory of Premier League stability, has coincided with the ascent of Zaha, from a wiry South London 17-year-old diamond in the rough to one of the most potent and sought after talents in the Premier League.
Now widely regarded as Crystal Palace’s talisman, the Côte d’Ivoire international is also thought of by many as one of the most prestigious talents outside the traditional top six.
Zaha has always been a player who has been able to produce moments of sorcery, with his electric pace and dazzling feat - so much so, that whenever Zaha received the ball, the seats at Selhurst Park, would, in unison, crash back into their upright position, as fans took a sharp inhale of breath in anticipation for what the spontaneous Zaha was about to do to an opposition defender.
Zaha was courted by Sir Alex Ferguson, with the Manchester United figurehead making the winger his last signing at the club prior to his retirement and a parting gift to the incoming David Moyes.
After Zaha helped Palace end their eight-year stint in the Championship by winning the penalty that Kevin Phillips dispatched into the roof of the Wembley net in the play-off final, he set off to begin his new life in Manchester.
Despite starting in the Community Shield victory over Wigan Athletic, Zaha then found himself frozen out by the under pressure Moyes, who was struggling to adapt to his new role as Manchester United boss.
Zaha was limited to just two appearances off the bench and 28 minutes of Premier League football before being sent on loan to Cardiff City in the January window, with United reluctant to let him return to Palace.
Zaha returned to South London the following season, his breakthrough transfer to Manchester United having failed through no fault of his own, and with David Moyes having been relieved of his duties and replaced by Louis van Gaal.
The Dutch manager would allow the off-the-cuff winger, who needed guidance and to be nurtured into the Premier League world, to return home on an initial loan deal that Palace would make permanent a few months later in a deal worth around £3 million plus add-ons.
Are Palace holding Zaha back?
Zaha has carried the burden of the club's Premier League status on his shoulders since his return and has spearheaded the Eagles’ attack, being the unchanging constant for Palace going forward.
Zaha came into his own under Roy Hodgson in the 2017/18 season, finally maturing into a winger who could add goal contributions to his game, and this valuable asset made Zaha a wanted man.
Spurs, Manchester City, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain were all showing interest in bringing Zaha to their respective clubs.
To warn off potential suitors, Palace rewarded their poster boy for his fine form with a new bumper contract which played a major part in keeping Palace in the Premier League.
Zaha put pen to paper on a new five-year-deal for around £130,000 per week, making him the highest earner at the club, but for Palace it would put them in the driving seat when it came to negotiations, should a club show interest in their prize asset.
After having the best season of his career, for the first time reaching double figures in both goals and assist, the vultures circled Palace to snatch their most influential player away from Selhurst Park.
However, this summer window was different, with Zaha previously always showing the same loyalty and passion towards the club that the fans had showed to him, and it was somewhat a surprise when Zaha looked to force a move away, in a desire to reach new heights in the game.
Nobody associated with Palace would deny Zaha a move to a bigger side, with Champions League aspirations and a hunger for trophies at the top of his wish list as he enters the prime of his short footballing life.
But the only clubs to have shown real interest in Zaha last summer were Arsenal and Everton, and neither could muster up the £80 million Palace were after to release Zaha from his new long-term contract.
Having been priced out of a move to Arsenal, with the Gunners opting for Nicolas Pépé from Lille as the smarter move, Zaha tried to force a transfer to Everton on transfer deadline day, handing in a transfer request with less than 24 hours before the window slammed shut.
Palace rebuffed any offer that came their way, with little time to bring in a replacement. It left Zaha having to accept that another season at Palace would be the outcome, and the frustrated forward was sentenced to another year of mid table obscurity.
Have Palace provided a squad capable of meeting Zaha's needs?
Zaha is targeted by opposition sides, with managers deploying a nullifying system on the winger to suffocate Palace's attacking threat.
When looking for an outlet or someone to help Zaha in the attacking third, Zaha looks to be at a loss of ideas, with a severe lack of creativity from midfield. In a Hodgson system, Zaha is required to come back and defend; this again hurts Palace, as really, fans want him to save his energy for his gut busting runs past opposition defenders.
Zaha believes his talent would be better suited to fighting at the other end of the table and to be competing for titles, and who can blame him?
Zaha saw another Palace academy graduate, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, fly the nest and join the Manchester United side which had chewed Zaha up and spat him out.
He has a desire to prove the doubters wrong and that United rushed into letting him go without a fair crack of the whip. In a better system and with better players around him, it would not be unfair to suggest that Zaha would shine even more when he is not the main focus of opposition defenders.
Is Zaha holding Palace back?
Zaha, this season, has been accused of not trying or downing tools in his efforts to keep Palace in the league, with Jordan Ayew taking the plaudits for his impressive return this season, picking up Player of the Season and Players Player of the Season.
Zaha has made his attentions clear, with videos circulating on social media which show Zaha laughing along with a sign that reads, 'Zaha to Arsenal.'
The high wages forked out by the club for Zaha have held Palace back in their investment into the squad in recent years, with the 27-year-old on a reported £6,500,000 a year.
Palace have spent all their time and effort in recent windows to keep hold of their star player; this has left the squad severely lacked investment, with the Eagles having the oldest squad in the league and having rejuvenated the squad with loan signings, free transfers and unwanted players from other Premier League sides.
Their lack of investment in the squad has finally caught up with Palace and letting Zaha go this window could be the best for all parties, with the Ivorian desperate to feed his European football hunger and to achieve something in the little time he has left in the game.
As for Palace, an influx of financial power from the sale of Zaha could see the Eagles finally arm Roy Hodgson in the transfer market and provide him with the squad he deserves, Hodgson having worked miracles keeping the side in the Premier League on such a limited budget.
Brentford striker, Ollie Watkins, Celtic goal machine, Odsonne Edouard, and Queens Park Rangers creative spark, Eberechi Eze, look like the players who are potentially being readied as replacements for Zaha and for both Palace and their academy product turned club hero and talisman, it could finally be time to part ways.
The grass is not always greener
Zaha would only have to look at his old teammate and partner-in-crime, Yannick Bolasie, to see that leaving Palace might not always be the best option.
Bolasie was worth his price for the admission fee to squeeze through the rusty gates at Selhurst Park. His tangible personality and impulsive way of playing the game saw Bolaise become a fans' favourite from the start.
Zaha and Bolaise struck fear into opposition sides, with the pair having the same skills set to beat the bewildered defences with ease. The dynamic duo where spilt up in the 2016 summer window when Bolaise was sold to Everton for a deal worth to be around £25 million, a record transfer fee received by the Eagles.
However, since his career defining move, the Congoliese winger has struggled to make an impact at Goddison Park. Since his move to Merseyside, Bolaise has had his Everton career plagued by a long term injury, an anterior cruciate ligament, which he suffered against Manchester United in the December 2016, which has kept the whimsical winger sidelined for over a year.
Bolasie has found it hard to reintegrate himself into first team plans; loans to Aston Villa and Sporting Lisbon have followed since his recovery, but Bolasie has failed to set the World alight in either of them.
Now 31 years old, and having only made 30 appearances for the Toffees' in four years, Bolasie's time at Everton is running out. There was even talk last window about a potential return for the winger to Selhurst Park.
Will it end in a sour way?
Palace will allow Zaha to leave this window if their asking price is met. It could be good for both parties to move on from this speculation to allow both Zaha and the club to grow and move forward.
The 27-year-old sacked his long-term agent, Will Salthouse, to bring in the experienced Pini Zahavi, a man who looks after the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Carlos Teves.
Zaha has spent 10 years and 9 seasons at the club, produced moments that will be fixed permanently in the minds of Palace fans, from his double in the play-off semi-finals against their arch rivals, Brighton, to his role in helping Palace to their second FA Cup Final in the club’s history.
However, there is a feeling that Zaha has helped to maintain Palace's top-flight status for several seasons now, and potentially he has reached the peak of what the club can achieve. This summer really is now or never for Zaha, and with few options and little time to resolve a deal, parting company could end in an unforgiving way.