Yannick Bolasie's long and winding journey to the top finally paying dividends

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For every Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard who bursts onto centre stage playing for their boyhood club, there is a player that is toiling in the lower leagues seemingly in anonymity wondering if they will ever get a lucky break. The Jamie Vardy story has come into full public view over the last 12 months with his rise from playing in the Conference with Halifax to being a key man in Leicester's fairytale season.

Although not as high profile, there is another rags-to-riches story in the Premier League with Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie. Unlike the aforementioned duo from Merseyside, the French-born Bolasie did not come through a youth academy, instead he had to come through an even more unconventional route.

After starting his football journey in the youth team at Rushden and Diamonds ten years ago, Bolasie played a couple of games for Hillingdon Borough in the Southern Football League, before having a season at Floriana in the Maltese Football League. He returned to England for the start of the 2008/09 season where he joined Plymouth Argyle.


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He spent the next few seasons bouncing around the football league. As well as playing for Argyle, he also had a stint on loan to Barnet and even returned to where it all started - Rushden and Diamonds. He eventually secured a move to Bristol City for the 2011-12 season before moving to Crystal Palace the next season.

Since his move to the south London club, Bolasie's career has come on leaps and bounds. The 26-year-old has been capped by the Democratic Republic of Congo nearly 30 times while also becoming one of the trickiest wingers in the Premier League. A particular game where he came to national attention was on a drizzly cold late Autumn day in November 2014 at Selhurst Park, where he terrorised the Liverpool defence - setting up two goals on their way to a 3-1 win.

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In an interview late last year, Bolasie reflected on the tougher years which have ultimately served himself well.

"I've had periods of my career where I wasn't getting paid. At Plymouth Argyle, the PFA had to step in and help with my wages and I had to save cash during that period. I've never had the classic Premier League lifestyle- and I don't want that. I'm still very careful with what I earn," Bolasie said.

Despite missing a couple of months through injury, Bolasie is the joint highest league scorer for Palace this campaign with five goals. He is seen by many observers as their most creative and important player and the stats back up the observation, as their winning record is 10% higher when he starts.

Watford v Crystal Palace - The Emirates FA Cup Semi Final

With his team in the midst of a very poor run of form, Bolasie has had to improve his own performance over the past month. He has contributed two vital goals in the last couple of games. Firstly a long range strike against the Gunners, and then the vital first goal in the FA Cup semi final against Watford.

He will be one player to watch in the FA Cup final against Man United. He is also a key pillar who Palace manager Alan Pardew can build around in the next few seasons after pledging his future to the club, despite rumours of interest from rival clubs.

It also proves you can have all the money in the world to buy the top players, but there are plenty of gems in the rough.

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Alan Pardew
Emmanuel Adebayor
Yannick Bolasie
Premier League
Crystal Palace
Wilfried Zaha

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