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17 Aug 2018

Crystal Palace: Is Wilfried Zaha tainted by his past?

Crystal Palace: Is Wilfried Zaha tainted by his
past?

The Ivorian failed to capitalise on interest from the big clubs this summer. Could it be because of his failed stint at Manchester United?

Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

"I hope whoever comes in will let me give it my best. I hope to still have a future there."

Wilfried Zaha was making one last plea. Cast aside by David Moyes having made just two appearances, here was a chance at redemption.

Louis van Gaal buried it. Appointed as Moyes' successor, the Dutchman dispatched Zaha back to London with his tail between his legs. The Ivorian re-signed for Crystal Palace, his ego and profile obliterated after a barren loan spell at Cardiff.

After a tremendous campaign last year, however, the big clubs came calling once more. Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund were all linked with his services before he surprised many with a decision to extend his Eagles contract until 2022.

The question is: were these suitors put off by his disappointing time at Manchester United?

Big fish

By the time Zaha's contract ends, he will be 31 with his failure to secure a move away no doubt prompting some to question his suitability for the biggest stage. He is tainted, his critics say. A big fish in a small pond, they argue, whose past failures prevent bigger clubs from taking a gamble on him.

It's a nonsense suggestion, of course. The very fact that clubs of such calibre are linked with him at all would suggest that they have hardly been put off. 

Action Images via Reuters/Adam Holt

Zaha is a better, more aggressive, more complete player than the one who joined Manchester United five years ago. The tricks and the insolence are still there but so too is a ruthlessness and consistent end product. 

Some Palace fans have been so enamoured with his performances as to suggest that he might he the greatest player in their history (a fact that Ian Wright might quarrel with).

If anything, the fact that Zaha has been in such superlative firm only inflates his value. Palace are safe and stodgy under Roy Hodgson, yet the 25-year-old still made more successful dribbles than anyone except Eden Hazard last year. In a side that laboured to 55 goals all season, he scored nine alone.

Question marks

Zaha's failure to capitalise on the big sides' interest, however, means that a question mark will always remain. Does he lack the ambition to win trophies with his talent or is he happy to exchange the possibility of glory for £120,000 per week?

Palace fans know that the big clubs will come again, particularly if Zaha has another year like his last. If so, their club will command a bigger fee and will have had 12 more months to source and secure his replacement. If he doesn't leave, it's an even bigger bonus.

Nobody should be panicking about Zaha' s decision to stay, least of all the man himself. He has established himself as a Premier League star and is the leader and talisman in a built to extract the best from his talents. 

The critics will always be there but he's already proven them wrong once.