Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha says he was forced to shut out the summer’s heavy speculation after links away from Selhurst Park left his head “all over the place”.
The Ivorian winger saw his name closely associated with a switch to both Arsenal and Everton before the window closed on August 8, while his brother even revealed, at the time, that a move to the Gunners was a “dream” scenario for his sibling.
Why did Zaha stay at Crystal Palace? Five things to know…
- Zaha scored 10 Premier League goals and provided five assists in 2018/19.
- He also attempted the most take-ons of any player (249) last term, and completed the second-most (113).
- As such, Arsenal and Everton were heavily linked transfer bids to sign him.
- It is believed Palace, who wanted £80m for Zaha, were ‘incensed’ by Arsenal’s £40m offer.
- Meanwhile, Everton confirmed in a statement they would back down after seeing an opening bid rejected.
Despite this strong interest, Palace were reluctant to allow their most prized asset to leave the club, especially after losing Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United. Instead, Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe, while Everton brought in Alex Iwobi.
As such, Zaha remained in south London and is once again shining for the Eagles, but not without a few teething problems at the start of the campaign, which he has now attributed to the widespread rumours swaying his judgment.
He told BBC Africa while winning a Best of Africa award for his charity work: “I had to put my head down and play my football.
Only three players have completed 20+ take-ons in the Premier League this season:
• Wilfried Zaha
• Nicolas Pépé
• James Maddison
The trickiest of customers. 💨 pic.twitter.com/JvfbOlh25v
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 23, 2019
“I would have been hindering my own progress by moaning and not wanting to perform properly.
“I have too much respect for my manager, the fans and my team-mates to treat them that way. It was a thing where ‘OK, this hasn’t happened but I’ve got to get on with it’.
“I’ve got to prove every time that I’m the top player I claim to be so I had to get over that quickly. Obviously my head was a bit all over the place at the beginning of the season but I had to nail down and just get on with it because the team deserved that.”
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Zaha puts future to one side
Despite going winless in their opening two Premier League matches, Palace have since collected the scalps of Man Utd, Norwich City, Aston Villa and West Ham.
That has left Roy Hodgson’s side sitting pretty in sixth place, and Zaha is now keen to put any talk of a move away to one side and help his team-mates climb the table even further.
He added: “I’m seeing how it goes. I’m a Crystal Palace player and I’m just trying to perform to the best of my ability for my club.
“I’m not thinking about anything else and just taking each day as it comes.
“The season’s gone well so far. We’ve got a lot more in us and I’m happy with the squad and everyone’s happy with where we are right now.
“All I can do is perform on the pitch. I’m trying to be a consistent performer on the pitch week in, week out.
“Last season I set myself a target of 10 goals and managed to get 10, so I was happy. Hopefully I can reach my goals again – that’s all that’s on my mind.”