Crystal Palace’s defeat of Manchester United in their Carling Cup quarter-final did more than just shock the footballing world.
The incredible performance of the south Londoners at Old Trafford was down, in part, to the efforts of one younger winger who is now reportedly being chased by Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish.
Wilfried Zaha’s strong driving runs down the right were an exciting sight that evening in November, but this glory could mean the end of Zaha’s Palace career.
Palace manager Dougie Freedman confirmed that some of the Barclays Premier League’s top clubs have been looking at Zaha, but denied he will be leaving.
“I’ve had chit-chats with Kenny Dalglish and Alex Ferguson, but he is not going anywhere,” he told reporters.
The real question is would Zaha fit in to the Liverpool or Manchester United team and how successful could he be? Well, GiveMeFootball is running the rule over the Ivory Coast–born youngster to answer those questions exactly.
The first question must be to ask whether the England Under-19 international is good enough to join either of the squads.
Although it is always difficult to tell whether a young player showing great promise will be able to produce consistently at the highest level, Zaha’s performances suggest he may just be able to.
Zaha is very quick and an incredibly strong runner, his technique is good without being spectacular and he has exceptional balance.
There is no suggestion by anyone that he is the finished article but the attributes he possesses are the kind that can be developed and improved to fall in line with Premier League standards.
One of the most important aspects of the athletic forward’s game is his ability to receive the ball comfortably in tight situations. Zaha is not fazed by pressure on him when in control of the ball and has a number of tricks to flamboyantly escape trouble.
Although his finishing could do with being refined somewhat, Zaha has the ability to score from some of the most unlikely positions – his strength and speed mean he his quite capable of bursting past markers.
Versatility is another attribute of Zaha’s that make him an inviting prospect for many Premier League sides. He can operate in a conventional wide role in a midfield four, as a winger in the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formations favoured by most clubs at the moment and as a centre forward.
The impressive display at Old Trafford also suggested he may have the concentration to fill in at full-back or operate as a wing-back of sorts.
This means both Liverpool and Manchester United could find space for him in one of the few systems they deploy. Zaha’s pace and ability to beat defenders make his ideal position that of a wide man, but his strength and assured touch suggest he could be developed into an effective central striker.
Overall, Zaha would be a good addition to any squad in the Premier League but do not expect to see him produce regularly for another couple of years.
Prices being bandied around have been between £5-10million and somewhere around the lower end of that range is probably an acceptable price. A price of £10million being quoted for an unproven 19-year-old is indicative of how inflated the market for English youngsters is, however promising they are.
Freedman is obviously keen to keep Zaha at Selhurst Park, although whether the Eagles’ owner will turn down a big-money bid from the league above or not is another issue.
Reports in Goal.com suggest that Palace’s progression in the Carling Cup will dictate whether they sell the 19-year-old or not.
Palace won their semi-final first leg 1-0 at home to Cardiff City last week and he is unlikely to be allowed to leave if they manage to secure a place in the final at Wembley against either Liverpool or Manchester City.
If Dalglish and Ferguson do want to sign Zaha, they had better hope the Bluebirds can turn the tables on the Eagles come 24 January.