By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal and Manchester United will hold talks with Crystal Palace his week as they battle it out for the €14.4 million signing of Wilfried Zaha, Goal.com can reveal.
United were the strong favourites to capture the highly coveted forward in January but Arsenal have dramatically re-entered the race.
The two Premier League big hitters are both due to meet Palace co-chairman Steve Parish later this week in what will be a straight fight for the 20-year-old’s signature.
Sources have told Goal.com that Zaha’s destination is “50-50” between United and Arsenal, with the final decision to rest with the player himself. He was a boyhood Gunners fan but that will not necessarily prove decisive.
Zaha appeared to end speculation about his future at the weekend, with a thinly-veiled hint on Twitter that he will be joining United. However, the Tweet – “Looks like i’m on my way to the top of the premier league” – is believed to have appeared on a fake account.
Parish and Palace manager Ian Holloway have both consistently said that Zaha will not be sold before the end of the season but it is understood that the newly-capped England international is set to leave Selhurst Park by the end of the window.
The fee required to secure the 20-year-old, who is contracted to Palace until 2017, is likely to be around the €14.4m mark.
Palace would prefer for Zaha to spearhead Palace’s promotion challenge and remain at the club until next summer but Arsene Wenger wants to integrate the youngster into the Arsenal set-up immediately.
Wenger would be opposed to a deal that would allow Zaha to join in the forthcoming window and then be loaned back to the Championship club for the rest of the season. United are believed to be open to the possibility of loan-back deal.
The attacker, who can play anywhere across the front three, has been a driving force in Palace’s surge to fourth in the Championship, scoring five goals in 26 league appearances this season. He made his England debut as a substitute in the 4-2 November friendly defeat to Sweden.
Wenger confirmed Arsenal’s interest in Zaha in loose terms at a media briefing in November, saying: “We are looking at every player who could strengthen our squad - but he is not more on the list than anyone else.”
This relatively innocuous comment was greeted with a furious reaction from Holloway, who accused Wenger of “bad etiquette” and declared he would be “picking the phone up to talk to him”.