This morning, Sky Sports are reporting that Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has publicly declared an intention to leave the club over the course of the summer transfer window and whilst it’s news that everyone could see coming, the dynamics of a deal are far from straightforward.
At 26, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Zaha is looking at the upcoming transfer window as the ideal time to spread his wings and realise the ambition of becoming a Champions League regular with one of Europe’s top clubs. In terms of ability alone, I have no doubt that the Palace academy graduate has what it takes to flourish at that level but in some ways, it feels as though he may have made a rod for his own back in becoming such a key cog in the Palace machine since returning from Manchester United.
It doesn’t feel outlandish to suggest that no Premier League side rely more on one player than Palace do on Zaha. Their entire attacking framework revolves around the winger; a fact which offers him the freedom to truly express himself but also means that in terms of a valuation, the Eagles see him as a £65-80 million player, which causes potential suitors across the continent to scoff.
I’m fully appreciative of the fact that, to those outside the Palace bubble, Zaha probably isn’t worth more than £45-50 million but when a player has been such a lightning rod for a sustained period of time; the prospect of recovering from his departure is one which will take a sizeable financial boost. In reality, Wilf leaving SE25 will force Hodgson and his backroom to dramatically alter the make-up of our tactical approach; a plan which will take both time and a fair number of new recruits to get right.
The other factor looming large in the background is the sell-on fee that will be due to Manchester United as and when Wilf does fly the nest. Depending on which report you take as gospel, the figure ranges from anywhere between 15-40% of the sum we receive for his services; leaving the club hard put to restructure the core of the squad without a fee of at least £60 million to begin with.
I don’t for one second believe that Steve Parish, Roy Hodgson or the Palace support are intent on stopping Zaha from achieving all that he wants to within the game but any deal that we do sign off on must make financial sense for the football club. It may sound romantic but there simply is no upside to Palace cutting off their noses to spite their face in giving the green light to offers in the £40-45 million range; not only would it be extremely cheap, it would prevent us from building a side which could avoid the drop in our star man’s absence.
Wilf’s contract is set to run until 2023 with no buy-out clause; a fact which affords the club a fair chunk of bargaining power when interested parties do come calling but if things do take a turn for the nasty with Zaha handing in a formal transfer request, Palace will be backed into a corner they’d wished to avoid at all costs. Part of me thinks (perhaps just hopes) that the winger would never look to fall out with the club so publicly but these stories always have an element of the unpredictable and given the timing of this news, it feels like a story which could run and run for the entirety of the window.
We had all hoped for a summer free from drama, clearly that was a wish too far.