Wilfried Zaha is desperate to leave Crystal Palace.
At least, according to Roy Hodgson. After watching his side finish the 2019/20 season with a draw against Spurs, the Palace boss said: “It’s a dilemma for the club and a dilemma for him if he is so set on leaving. If he feels he just does not want to be with us any more, that would be sad.”
Whether or not Zaha does genuinely want to go is irrelevant now. Given Hodgson‘s comments, it’s clear that the club is open to selling. That language seems to be an obvious attempt to avoid fan ire at the club selling their best player.
But where would Zaha even go if he left Selhurst Park? We’ve had a look and come up with four potential options…
Dream: Borussia Dortmund
Obviously Zaha is one of the most prolific wingers in the Premier League, a devastating talent who can act as a one-man counter-attack but also slice and dice opponents who are sat deep. He can score and create goals with liquid precision and is just a joy to watch in full-flight.
But his dream move would surely take him abroad, to the Bundesliga. With Borussia Dortmund likely to sell Jadon Sancho this summer, they will have a vacancy for a winger in their first XI. A vacancy that Zaha could slot into quite nicely given his excellence in transition and the large role the counter-attack plays at Dortmund specifically and across the Bundesliga in general.
Obviously Zaha doesn’t fall into Dortmund‘s usual age profile, but you can’t always sign youngsters. Sometimes you need some experienced heads to be reliable, and while Dortmund have Marco Reus he is injury-prone so having someone like Zaha around to also be a consistent performer would be a great help. It would be a true dream as Dortmund are unlikely to spend the kind of sums that Palace would ask, but if it were to happen then Zaha would be on cloud nine.
Zaha to Arsenal is the new Gaitan to Manchester United, except this one actually has a chance of happening now. The Gunners won’t have any European football to offer next season and so will have to be very selective in their recruitment.
Moreover, they may lose star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which would open up a hole on the wing. Obviously Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson are two promising young wingers that have proven themselves capable of performing in the Premier League, but neither can do what Zaha is capable of. Since 2016/17 no player has completed more take-ons than Zaha (537), he is a dribbling machine and the Gunners could really use his talents to break teams down.
Having Zaha and Nicolas Pepe on the flanks would make Arsenal such a dangerous prospect for opponents to handle and would at least mitigate some of the loss from Aubameyang‘s departure (and should the striker stay, then Zaha’s arrival would allow him to take up his preferred central role).
Wildcard: Manchester City
Manchester City haven’t missed much in terms of their attack this season, but they’ve definitely missed Leroy Sane’s lethal dribbling at pace as the German has missed the season through injury and has now joined Bayern Munich. To that end, Zaha could act as a replacement.
Think about it: Zaha is fast, knows the Premier League and is a supernatural dribbler. Obviously he wouldn’t play every week, but he ability to function on either flank would please Pep Guardiola and he could be trusted to be that tip of the spear that Sane so often was.
Clearly this represents a wildcard move, as City have more pressing needs to address and whilst Guardiola was interested in Zaha back in 2018, it’s likely that he’s identified younger talents to replace Sane in 2020.
Squawka Suggests: Wolves
Of course, what Zaha really needs is not just a club where he will play now but could be upgraded on if he plays well enough to help the club achieve its goals (which he probably will). He needs a club where he can play a more focal role and grow with them. To that end: Wolves.
Unlike Arsenal, Wolves are in the Europa League next season. They might even make the Champions League should they won the Europa League this season. They’re a phenomenally organised side who are capable of giving anyone a game. In fact one could argue they’re more effective against the big sides in England than Arsenal are.
Wolves would provide Zaha with an incredible platform, using him wide in attack next to Raul Jimenez. That way he could, like Diogo Jota, make searing runs into spaces behind the defence. It also means he could, like Adama Traore, size up defenders and rip them to bits off the dribble.
Basically if he were playing for Wolves he would get to make the most of his skills whilst playing with a genuinely lethal striker in a side packed full of ambition. He would start, but wouldn’t have to play every game. And for Wolves this would give them a powerful attacking weapon that would allow them to go at their second consecutive marathon of a season with utmost confidence.
Much will depend on the sum Palace may be willing to take for their star man. The figures that have previously been attached to Zaha’s name may no longer be feasible but given that he is now 27, this summer could represent their final opportunity to secure a premium price.
Wilfried Zaha: Next club odds* (via SkyBet)
West Ham: 12/1
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