Football Features

How Crystal Palace could spend the AWB-Zaha transfer money

By Steve Jennings

Published: 22:00, 4 July 2019 | Updated: 13:16, 20 August 2019

Crystal Palace are yet to make a signing this summer, but the next few weeks could be very busy at Selhurst Park.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s £50m move to Manchester United has given Palace funds to spend. And with Wilfried Zaha now being linked with a big-money move to Arsenal, the Eagles could soon have a bigger budget than they know what to do with.

Reports suggest Arsenal’s opening offer for Zaha is worth around £40m but depending on who you believe, Palace might command anywhere up to £100m for their talisman.

While it’s likely the Londoners will have to lower their demands somewhat, the club will still have plenty of cash to throw at replacements if Zaha joins Wan-Bissaka in the departure lounge. So where do they begin spending that money?

We’ve come up with three lists of targets for Roy Hodgson: one dream scenario, one realistic and a wildcard.

Dream: A very bright future

Max Aarons, Scott McTominay, Demarai Gray, Jarrod Bowen

Palace have the opportunity to build a promising squad for the future by bringing in high-potential players who could spend the next few years of their careers with the club – that is surely the dream scenario.

With right-back being a priority, Norwich City starlet Max Aarons would be an ideal addition. The 19-year-old has been linked with Manchester United and Tottenham, but United have already got Wan-Bissaka and Spurs are unlikely to move for a right-back unless Kieran Trippier leaves.

Aarons, 19, emerged as a regular for Norwich in the Championship last season and would make up for Wan-Bissaka’s absence. Similarly, adding a player of Demarai Gray’s ilk would soften the blow of losing Zaha. Gray has struggled to cement a place in the Leicester starting line-up, but at just 23 years old, there is still plenty of time for him to fulfil his potential.

Palace have reportedly approached Manchester United over Scott McTominay. The midfielder, 22, might be tempted by guaranteed first-team football at Selhurst Park, something he won’t get at Old Trafford if Paul Pogba stays put.

And finally, Hull City forward Jarrod Bowen would provide Roy Hodgson with a different kind of option up front. The 22-year-old scored 22 goals in the Championship last season and now appears ready to make the step up to the Premier League.

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Realistic: The here and now

Nathaniel Clyne, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Iwobi, Aleksandar Mitrovic

The dream scenario could be relatively costly to Palace and, realistically, the fees they receive for Wan-Bissaka and Zaha could fund the next few transfer windows if the club is cautious.

With that in mind, Palace might go for cheaper, more established Premier League players such as Nathaniel Clyne, who left Selhurst Park for Southampton in 2012. The 28-year-old spent part of last season on loan at Bournemouth and could depart Liverpool permanently this summer.

For much of last season, Fulham striker Alexander Mitrovic appeared to be on a one-man mission to keep the Cottagers in the Premier League. His form tailed off and Fulham ultimately went down, but the 24-year-old Serbian is a proven top-flight goalscorer having found the net 11 times for a losing team last term.

It is also a probable outcome that Arsenal may have to offer players in exchange for Zaha if they are to get their man. The Gunners might be willing to lose Mohamed Elneny, who is talented but has found it difficult to displace Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka at the Emirates. The Egyptian would be a useful addition to Palace’s squad.

Alex Iwobi will surely be on Palace’s list, too, if players are exchanged. By selling Zaha, they will be losing a player who is able to make things happen by running at opposition full-backs; Iwobi is often tasked with injecting that kind of trickery into Arsenal’s attack. His terrific goal in the Europa League final is indicative of what he can offer.

Wildcard: Two Cherries on top

Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson

Arguably the Premier League’s most dangerous duo in 2018/19, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson combined for 12 Bournemouth goals last term, leading to rumours of interest from Arsenal and Chelsea.

But with Chelsea – who were said to be keen on Wilson in January – under a transfer ban and Arsenal – one of Fraser’s suitors – pursuing Zaha, perhaps Palace will emerge as a possible destination for Bournemouth’s star duo.

Indeed, instead of covering all of the positions deemed in need of strengthening, Palace may decide to splash out and transform just one area of the team. The attack will certainly need freshening up following Zaha’s exit, and a front three of Andros Townsend, Fraser and Wilson would be among the best outside the top six.

Convincing Bournemouth to sell would be difficult but what is a wildcard for if not to take a risk by breaking the club’s transfer record on an England international like Wilson? Fraser has just one year left on his Cherries contract, though he is still likely to be expensive given his importance to Eddie Howe.

Squawka Suggests: Roy’s dream

At 71, Roy Hodgson is the oldest manager in the Premier League. And while he is showing no signs of slowing down as a manager, it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest he will not be in charge at Selhurst Park for too much longer.

As such, he will be hoping to leave Palace in a better state than when he took over. That might already be the case, but following our ‘Dream’ option would set Palace up for a potentially long stay in the Premier League beyond his retirement.

It would also give Hodgson a dynamic squad to work with in 2019/20, with the aim being to achieve something beyond merely staying in the top-flight.