Crystal Palace’s young winger Wilfried Zaha is certainly not short of admirers and after his international debut against Sweden aged just 20 he has become one of football’s most wanted. Zaha came on to replace Raheem Sterling in the 83rd minute, he looked bright but wasn’t given enough time to really show what he could do on the international stage.
Zaha lived in the Ivory Coast until the age of four when he moved to South London. He is eligible to play for either England or Ivory Coast and the winger has yet to make up his mind. But Zaha said that his immediate focus was on “getting through January, whether I’m going to stay with Palace or move, then I’ll decide whether I’m going to go with England or the Ivory Coast”.
There has been much interest in Zaha from big clubs such as Arsenal, Tottenham and now Manchester United after he was recommended to Ferguson by son Darren following his Peterborough side being torn apart by Zaha. Palace have valued their star man at £20 million, this high price tag is unlikely to be met but Manchester United are said to be willing to offer ‘what it takes’ to get their man. Ferguson sees Zaha as a Cristiano Ronaldo style winger who scores goals through his pace and trickery. Zaha would be an ideal replacement if Nani was to leave the club due to his contract dispute.
Crystal Palace are currently 2nd in the Championship and boss Ian Holloway would of course be keen to keep Zaha for the push for promotion. Holloway is fearful that a move to a top club may hinder the development of the young star, ‘It’s a difficult time for him as everything has happened at once. This could damage a young man who is as pure a footballer as he is. He has to learn to handle it, put the emotion away and do his job.’
Personally I think Zaha is showing all the signs that he could become one of the Premier League’s best players. He can play on either wing, he is lightening quick and has good skills with the ball at his feet. He certainly doesn’t lack for confidence too, he had this to say when asked how he would cope in the Premier League:‘I don’t think I’ve come up against a defender when I’ve thought “What can I do to get past this guy?” If it was Ashley Cole I would be working it all out before the game, knowing he would stick tight to me. I’d drift inside and then run at him.’ When he first joined up with the England squad Gerrard was caught whispering ‘Train like you belong.’ into the ear of Zaha however, he didn’t need reassurance. He famously said in his first major television interview ‘Unless I’m looking at Ronaldo or Messi, I’d never look at someone else and think he’s better than me”.
Zaha has certainly come a long way from the kid that practised Ronaldinho’s skills in his back garden with a tennis ball but there is still a long way to go on his quest to become one of the best players in England although the potential is certainly there.