Ivory Coast international Wilfried Zaha has a reputation that he would rather not have; that he is unable to display his abundant talents at a top Premier League club.
This reputation was gained after a move to Manchester United back in 2013, failed to propel the right-winger to stardom. Instead it saw him loaned out to Cardiff City after just six months at Old Trafford, before returning to Selhurst Park in February 2015 for less than half of what United had initially forked out for his services.
The South London club looks to be the perfect fit for the 25-year-old and his performances since the arrival at the helm of Roy Hodgson, ensured The Eagles kept their Premier League status last season. Inevitably however, rumours are now abound that Zaha is once again wanted by some of English football’s heavyweight clubs.
If any proof was needed as to just how valuable Zaha was to Palace last season, then one needs to look no further than in the nine games the Ivorian missed through injury, the club failed to record a single Premier League victory.
With a £50M price tag now slapped on him, both Everton and Liverpool are in the chase, as well as long-term admirers Tottenham Hotspur, who were reportedly close to grabbing his signature back in January of this year.
My sources inside Selhurst Park understand that the player is ready to test himself at the very top level once again and that his preferred destination would be Anfield, despite Jurgen Klopp’s recent acquisition of Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri.
An Anfield insider has also told me that Liverpool, aware of the attention coming from across Stanley Park, are anxious to steal a march on their city neighbours and have already made contact with Palace over a possible summer deal.
I have also learned from a club insider that Klopp has grown impatient waiting for news from Lyon about French attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir and is ready to abandon that chase to focus fully on bringing the former United player to Merseyside.
Klopp is ready to utilise Zaha in a similar role to the one he had prepared for Fekir (to supply the ammunition to his front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane) who now looks to have missed out on his dream move.
There have also been reports over the weekend that Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund are showing a strong interest in Zaha, who scored nine goals in 29 Premier League outings last term, but Palace sources have explained to me that the player wants to remain in England for the foreseeable future.
I’ve also been told that another huge factor in Zaha’s desire to head to Anfield is the fact that they can offer him Champions League football next term, something he never got the chance to experience during his time at Old Trafford.
Palace boss Hodgson would love to keep his star turn at Selhurst Park. Zaha signed a contract extension in May 2017 (worth £110,000-a-week) to tie him down to The Eagles until 2022, stating at the time that he was “very happy” at his boyhood club. In May of this year, the capital club, aware that their player would be one of the big names in this summer’s transfer market, were keen to extend that contract once again, but there have been no more developments and now this looks highly unlikely.
Speaking to Sky Sports at the end of last season, Zaha was keen to point out that he had matured since 2013, declaring that; “I moved away when I was 19, 20. Whatever happened before happened and I have grown mentally,” adding, “So that won’t scare me, if I get the opportunity to move away eventually, that will not scare me because of what happened in the past.”
Eyebrows will of course be raised if his departure from Palace does cost in excess of £50M, but Liverpool want to be serious contenders both at home and domestically next season. That the club has not won a league title since 1990 still rankles with the fans, especially after seeing their bitter rivals down the East Lancs Road dominate English football for large parts during that time.
I understand however, that Klopp would like two more major signings before next month’s big kick-off and that he is confident that they can compete with Manchester City. The £140M the club collected for Philippe Coutinho back in January, has ensured that Liverpool can be major players in the transfer market once again and after Naby Keita, Fabinho and Shaqiri, don’t be surprised if Zaha becomes the latest addition to the German’s new look squad.
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