COMMENT By Kunle Fayiga Follow on Twitter
From first rising through the ranks when the club was still in the Championship to being instrumental to securing Premier League promotion for the South London outfit in 2013, he's consistently been a difference-maker for the Eagles.
His transfer to Manchester United was supposed to be his breakthrough, and while that didn't work out, the Ivorian can still find career fulfillment in South London.
A return to Selhurst Park in 2014 revived things for the forward, and he entered into the Eagles' history books this weekend when his goal in the 2-1 defeat at Watford on Sunday, made him Palace’s all-time top Premier League goal scorer.
It was his 24th in the English top flight, and has now eclipsed Chris Armstrong’s haul of 23.
24 - Wilfried Zaha is now Crystal Palace's top scorer in Premier League history (24), overtaking Chris Armstrong who netted 23 goals in the competition for the Eagles. Inspired. pic.twitter.com/pYKNcBZsH1— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 26, 2018
This feat was timed perfectly for Zaha, who recently penned a five-year contract extension at Selhurst Park to keep him at the club until 2023.
"He is obviously happy here, because he is from the area and a Palace player," Eagles coach Roy Hodgson told reporters. "He knows that we really appreciate what he can do for us, and we work hard to put him in a good condition and good position to do that."
Zaha is a bundle of talent, and you’d think that with what he does week in, week out, he should be destined for the top.
He was after all linked with a move to Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund during the transfer window, but with a move not materialising, he's committed his future to Palace.
One can’t forget how the Eagles struggled when he got injured in the early part of the previous campaign; they hit rock bottom and failed to win or score in seven league games. However, when the former Cardiff City loanee returned, he made all the difference, with his nine goals and five assists ensuring Palace survived the drop.
Zaha can be likened to Matt Le Tissier, who spent his entire career at Southampton between 1986 and 2002, where his creativity and technical ability made him a torment to the big guns. He scored 209 career goals, and his name can’t be left out when talking about Premier League greats.
However, the downside of La Tissier’s fantastic career was that he never won any major title at Southampton, as the Saints spent majority of the time trying to achieve survival in the top flight. That's surely not a good record for such a talented player, even though Hodgson questions the notion.
“Who is to say that players are not fulfilled spending the next five years at Crystal Palace, doing exceptionally well every year, [being] loved by the fans, helping Palace to a position in the league that they think they can achieve?” he questioned.
“Who is to say that is not fulfilling goals and that [it] is not a very worthwhile career?”
On a mission pic.twitter.com/Px2muSIiho— Wilfried Zaha (@wilfriedzaha) August 23, 2018
Zaha already missed one big opportunity to add unlikely silverware to his haul when Palace were defeated by United in the 2016 FA Cup final, although a return to a cup final isn't impossible for Hodgson's talented collective.
“All players who play for clubs like us have to accept that it’s not going to be easy to get your hands on a trophy," the former England coach admitted. “Leicester did, didn’t they?
"We can certainly consider ourselves in a similar category to them.”
Zaha also still has time to win tournaments with the Ivory Coast; the Elephants tackle Rwanda away from home in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in a fortnight, and the attacker will likely be involved.
The West Africans missed out on a World Cup berth, but are one of the favourites for the biennial tournament in Cameroon next year, having tasted success in 1992 and 2015.
Some may question Zaha's rationale for committing himsef to a club where the chances of silverware are slim, but it's clear that both player and club are made for one another and the bond will continue to grow.
There's hope that his renewed commitment to the South London outfit will raise not only the club’s fortunes, but his as well.