Crystal Palace will resist any renewed interest from Tottenham in their Ivory Coast-born winger Wilfried Zaha and remain confident they will eventually agree a contract to extend his stay at Selhurst Park.
Zaha, Palace’s most impressive player over a difficult season to date, will feature for Sam Allardyce’s side against Arsenal on Sunday and Swansea City on Tuesday before joining his new Ivory Coast team-mates at an Africa Cup of Nations training camp in Abu Dhabi. That tournament begins on 14 January, meaning the 24-year-old could be absent for the majority of the mid-season transfer window, potentially missing up to four Premier League games as well as his club’s initial involvement in the FA Cup.
His absence may not deter Spurs from offering a deal potentially worth £30m for a player they coveted in the summer, when Palace dismissed a derisory offer of £12m for the youth-team graduate. The Palace chairman, Steve Parish, made clear then that he would not countenance the player’s sale, and that stance has not shifted. Allardyce, while disappointed that he is to lose Zaha to tournament football at a critical early stage of his tenure, also recognises the impact he can have over the remainder of season.
Palace will now endeavour to reach an agreement with the forward’s representative over a longer-term deal. Zaha’s contract runs until 2020 but, at around £40,000 a week, he is not among the bigger earners at Selhurst Park. The intention to extend on improved terms was first mooted at the end of last season, with talks held in September and an offer lodged which would lead to the winger’s wage rising to parity with that of the captain, Scott Dann, on around £65,000 a week.
Yet the player’s advisers have seen Christian Benteke, Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend signed on higher terms over the past two summers and are arguing that, as one of Palace’s key performers, he should be earning a similar amount. Talks are likely to continue aimed at reaching a compromise, with Palace intent upon retaining the player.
The relationship between Parish and Zaha remains strong, with the chairman understood to have spoken at length with the winger regarding his frustration at a lack of recent opportunities with England. The player’s two caps were awarded by Roy Hodgson in friendlies during 2012 and 2013 and while he has represented the under‑21s since, he has now decided to pledge his future to Ivory Coast.
That decision was made in consultation with the Palace hierarchy and effectively with the club’s blessing. It was confirmed despite Gareth Southgate’s late intervention to try to convince the player to remain eligible for England. It is understood the England manager did not offer any assurances over future selection in those discussions, with Zaha duly deciding to pursue his switch back to the country of his birth.
The winger may still be uncapped by Ivory Coast but the coach, Michel Dussuyer, has already made clear his intention to use him as a replacement for the injured Gervinho in the tournament in Gabon.
Allardyce, meanwhile, has revealed that he turned down the chance of a lucrative move to China before taking over at Palace.
Chinese Super League clubs are investing huge sums in order to attract big names from Europe to Asia, with Carlos Tevez and Oscar among the most recent names to make the switch. Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, also claimed on Thursday that his client had been offered $100m a year to join an un-named Chinese club.
Now it appears Southgate’s predecessor as England manager was also targeted. “Did I have an offer? Yes.
“I didn’t go. I could have gone but I preferred to stay here,” Allardyce said. “It’s difficult for a player or a club to turn that down, it’s just the way of the world and changing forces in the football world. China has decided it wants to be a force and has decided the way to do it is to buy the best players and pay over the odds. Time will tell if it’s the right thing to do.”
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