Wilfried Zaha endured a tumultuous first few years to his professional career, as he was catapulted to the stars with a move to Manchester United before returning to Crystal Palace looking to rebuild his reputation.
It’s safe to say that he’s firmly done that, particularly last term as he reaffirmed his class with a series of star performances as Sam Allardyce guided the Eagles to safety.
His fine campaign saw him linked to the division’s biggest sides, but will one of his prospective suitors move to prove that the Red Devils were premature to cut Zaha loose.
The story of last season
Zaha experienced two major landmarks last season during what was—at times—a testing campaign for the 24-year-old.
Internationally, he opted to end hopes of building a career with England and switched to represent the Cote d’Ivoire.
His decision was greeted with much fanfare in the land of his birth, although the optimism was dampened as the Elephants limped out of the Nations Cup in the group stage during what was a miserable title defence.
Domestically, he enjoyed the best Premier League campaign of his career, despite difficult circumstances.
After a tricky start to the year under Alan Pardew—where Zaha was nonetheless one of the Eagles’ better performers, making decisive contributions in five games in October and November—he made a series of magnificent performances as Palace evaded the drop under Allardyce.
Notably, he turned it on in the big games, with three assists and one goals across victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.
Zaha ended the year with seven goals and nine assists.
What could happen this window?
Expectedly, the forward’s big performances last term attracted attention from some of the Prem’s biggest sides.
Mauricio Pochettino failed with a £15 million move for the attacker a year ago, but were heavily linked to his signature at the season’s conclusion.
In May, however, reports suggested that Spurs had been discouraged from moving for the attacker due to his decision to represent the Cote d’Ivoire, meaning that he’d be absent for up to six weeks after two years.
At the end of the month, Zaha put pen to paper on a new five-year deal with Palace.
The decision has largely muted the speculation surrounding the player, although with new boss Frank de Boer still understood to be assessing his squad ahead of the new campaign, a departure is not completely off the cards.
What to expect next season
Assuming now that Zaha doesn’t move—although his sustained stay at Selhurst Park won’t be definitive until the window slams shut—his objective ought to be to build on last season’s return.
In principle, there’s little to stop him, as the Eagles have the quality to steer clear of the relegation concerns that affected them last season, and the attacker also won’t be departing mid-season for the Nations Cup.
Similarly, the arrival of de Boer—a coach who oversaw the development of several talented attacking players at Ajax—offers hope that the Dutchman can give Zaha an extra dimension to his game.
Christian Eriksen, Davy Klaassen and Toby Alderweireld are just some of the players to have passed through the former international’s hands.
However, as he demonstrated at Internazionale, de Boer is not immune to failure, and his arrival is a gamble for Palace.
Regardless of his fortunes at club level, Zaha will hope to end the season at the World Cup in Russia, with the Elephants currently top of their qualifying group.