Winger could be heading for Crystal Palace exit in pursuit of Champions League football
Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha has been tipped for a move to Liverpool but would the former Manchester United flop suit Jurgen Klopp’s Reds?
Quotes from Zaha emerged over Easter weekend hinting that the player wishes to leave Selhurst Park in order to play Champions League football and a report in the Daily Mail suggested the Eagles were prepared to let him go for £80million.
Zaha said: “I have to experience the Champions League. I just need the opportunity, that’s it, and I’ll do the rest.
“It gives me goosebumps seeing the crowds, amazing stadiums. “When I’m seeing players I think, ‘What would I do in that predicament?’
“I feel I can get to that stage, with the confidence I have and belief in my ability. I should be there. I’m missing out. I don’t just want to be at home watching it.
“Real players, when the time comes, it’s that big stage, they’re the ones that step up. I want to be that player in the big game.”
In response to such remarks, former Republic of Ireland international striker Tony Cascarino declared that he believed that Anfield could prove the ideal destination for Zaha.
He told talkSPORT: “ Liverpool played Palace last year and I went to the game and Jurgen Klopp was consistently on Alexander-Arnold about Wilf Zaha, you could see it from the sideline. Literally tracking his movements, Zaha the whole game.
“I kept thinking after that game, Klopp really does respect Zaha as a player and he knows how dangerous he is. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him at Liverpool, but he could do a job for any of the top-six.”
Do Liverpool want to shell out such a hefty fee on a player who has already tried and failed at one of the Premier League’s leading clubs though, particularly with the club in question being their bitter rivals Manchester United?
Although there might ultimately be a significant degree of satisfaction out of managing to get a tune out of a talent who was mostly off key during his time at Old Trafford, are they really prepared to spend more than it cost them to land Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane combined for a player who may not actually displace either of them from the side.
While not scared to buy big in recent seasons – as the record-breaking acquisitions of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson have proven – the shrewd business sense of Anfied chiefs FSG ensures that they are always looking to get more bang for their buck and Zaha’s reputed price tag appears to be rather steep.
Snapping up a player like Zaha for so much only to fulfil an understudy or bit-part role does not seem to add up especially given that Klopp was able to identify Xherdan Shaqiri to fill such duties at a fraction of the cost less than a year ago.
Over six years on from his initial Palace departure, having been one of the soon-to-retire Sir Alex Ferguson’s final purchases – a deal was struck in January 2013 with the player loaned back to his selling club for the remainder of the season – Zaha can no longer be considered a raw, young talent.
He’s changed a lot since – not least his nationality having been an England international back then yet subsequently committing himself to his country of birth Ivory Coast having emigrated to the London borough of Croydon as a four-year-old – but has Zaha shown the consistency levels to step up from a team who regularly finish in the bottom half of the table to a side that are challenging for both the Premier League and Champions League?
It would be a big step up for sure.
For all his attacking threat to opposition defences, proving a constant menace with his speed, athleticism and movement, Zaha still hasn’t recorded double figures in the goalscoring stakes.
With three games remaining of the current campaign, his tally is nine goals – level with his career-best total from last season.
Clearly he’s operating alongside a weaker supporting cast but such a figure pales in comparison to either the 23 of Salah or Mane’s 22 this term who like Zaha were both born in 1992 and seemingly at the peak of their powers.
Of course there might always be a void to fill given Real Madrid’s ongoing rather public pursuit of Mane but while the Spanish giants appear to be relentless in their attempting wooing of the Senegalese international, Liverpool bosses will remain confident of holding on to one of their most prized assets who is part of a team that play to his strengths, has only recently signed a lucrative new contract and is believed to be settled at the club.
Klopp has never shied away from cherry picking some of the best talent from the Premier League’s lesser lights to supplement his own squad – the likes of Gini Wijnaldum (Newcastle United); Andy Robertson(Hull City) and the aforementioned Shaqiri (Stoke City) all came from recently-relegated clubs at the time – but in each of those instances the price was right.
In different circumstances, Zaha might prove an exciting addition to Liverpool’s ranks but unless it turns out that Palace somehow still owe the Reds big bucks for their acquisitions of Christian Benteke and Mamadou Sakho and the fee is slashed, the chances of this potential deal coming off seem somewhat dubious to say the least. Liverpool Echo