Wilfried Zaha: One of England’s most talented youngsters faces pivotal month

“It’s all happening so fast”, these were the words Wilfried Zaha took the modicum of Twitter to announce his reaction to an England call up back in November having just turned 20 years of age. The call came on the back of some scintillating performances for Crystal Palace of the Championship, raising high interest from the higher reaches of the Premier League to the kid who became on the second outfield player this century to represent his country.

Now, just two months later in the transfer month of January, Zaha has again pontificated with Twitter over a potential move up a division. “It looks like I’m on my way to the top of the Premier League” he wrote, before it was removed from the social network soon after.

Many construed his Tweet as a hint towards a move to Manchester United who have been continuously linked with an £11 million move for the winger, but Arsenal also remain in the hunt. “He’s just too good for you” as Crystal Palace fans serenade their majestic attacker, and that seems to be the case to all clubs apart from two of the country’s biggest.

Ian Holloway, Zaha’s manager at Crystal Palace, has backed down from his initial bullishness upon inheriting the majestic talent of the youngster to compromise with a possible January sale being supplemented with an immediate move back to the London club.

It is approaching just three years since Zaha made his debut for Palace against Cardiff aged 18, now 121 appearances later and he faces one massive decision that will have a major bearing on the rest of a career that promises to be extremely bright.

The attacker, born in Ivory Coast but persuaded to play for England by Roy Hodgson, is arguably the best player outside of the top division with consistent performances of pace, power and trickery that have been embraced by first Dougie Freedman and now Holloway as Palace lie on course for a surprise promotion back to the top.

Zaha has only managed five goals, but his game is based on so much more, his creative instinct and presence on the wing allows other to thrive, centre-forward Glenn Murray for example has helped himself to 22 goals.

It is credit the south London club for producing Zaha, the latest on a production line that fed the Premier League with Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne and John Bostock. Now of Swindon in League One, the latter should serve as a reminder how a move can easily go wrong if premature and ill-advised. It is vital for the player’s own progression, and as England’s shining beacon for the future, that he carefully presides over any impending decision with utmost caution.

Zaha has played 30 times so far this season and has been instrumental in guiding the Eagles to fourth in the Championship with some wonderful performances; he was influential in a 5-0 drubbing of Ipswich Town, virtually single handedly won a game 1-2 at Wolves whilst Darren Ferguson described him as “unplayable” after Peterborough were scourged by the winger in a 1-2 home defeat.

His father has more terrorising memories of the player however, after Sir Alex’s United were victim to his majestic ability in last season’s League Cup elimination to Palace. It was that display, they say, that has triggered Ferguson to monitor his progress ever since and now he seems convinced Zaha is worth the investment.

He faces reported competition from Arsene Wenger who seems to have targeted Zaha to add to the youthful homegrown revolution of his Arsenal squad that also houses Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.

Few would be better placed than Wenger to help progress the 20 year old with the Frenchman having helped along, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas and Nicolas Anelka, to name a few, the career’s of some of the league’s best exports. Yet it is Arsenal’s domestic struggles, they are looking at an eighth year without a trophy, and strict wage structure that may discourage Zaha from a move to the Emirates.

Manchester United meanwhile, remains arguably a more attractive proposition. While Arsenal will provide a regular first team place, any plan to sign Zaha then lease him back to Palace will fit perfectly with Old Trafford’s current left-wing incumbent Nani seemingly edging over a closer to the exit door.

His expected summer departure will free the space, and like at Arsenal, he will find himself alongside a strong English core of Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverely, Danny Welbeck, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young. That is without mentioning Ferguson can offer the same background in guidance as Wenger, plus the added advantage of a constant stream of success, at Arsenal it remains to be seen if the club can even offer Champions League football next season.

Palace will hope that if any promotion to the top league is completed, Zaha would remain with them and carry on the journey, but the allure of money is all-powerful in the modern game and that is something Holloway has appreciated in his climb-down over the sale of his talisman.

A £15 million fee has also been reported and if Palace can draw that sort of money for their player and have him back to galvanise the remainder of the journey to the Premier League, it would be a satisfactory deal for Holloway who would be armed with the money to invest back into his squad for the trip back to the top.

Such a move would assist the course of Roy Hodsgon greatly too, as a season in the build up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil being spent in the company of the very best would be the best tonic to aid the fledgling ability of such an exciting prospect. That is the future however and beyond, all hinging on this month and any decision Zaha should make on any possible move.

For somebody who could be the most exciting English talent since Paul Gascoigne or Wayne Rooney, everybody should hope he gets it right.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow him on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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