Emile Heskey doubts whether Rafael Benitez is the right man to take Crystal Palace forward after Roy Hodgson said goodbye to Selhurst Park, speaking exclusively to HITC.
Forget Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The most difficult job in the Premier League right now may just be Crystal Palace.
After four years of safety and stability, the Eagles are entering the unknown as 73-year-old Hodgson rides off into the sunset.
Whoever replaces the former England manager will be under pressure to introduce a more engaging, attacking style of play, find a way to move on from the departure of several key players including Andros Townsend, Patrick van Aanholt and the rejuvenated Christian Benteke, not to mention avoid the same fate that befell the doomed Frank de Boer.
Did we mention Ebere Eze, arguably Crystal Palace’s most gifted attacking player, may be out of action until 2022?
You can understand, then, why chairman Steve Parish might go for another experienced, proven tactician in the Rafa Benitez mould to bridge the gap from one era to another while staving off the nagging fear of relegation.
But Heskey, the former England and Liverpool striker, has been left wondering whether Benitez at Palace would be a square peg in a round hole.
“I think Rafa could do a reasonable job. But I don’t know if he’s the right man to take them forward in the long term,” Heskey muses.
Crystal Palace have barely spent a penny in the past couple of transfer windows – barring that £15 million outlay on Eze.
So how do the Eagles replace the likes of Benteke, Townsend, Van Aanholt, Nathaniel Clyne, James McCarthy, Scott Dann and Gary Cahill – all of whom will leave the club for free – while operating on a shoestring budget?
“They’ve got an ageing squad so they’ll need to bring some new players in,” Heskey adds.
“What is the club’s philosophy? What is their style of play? What stature of players do they want? It will be interesting to see how that will pan out.
“It’s very expensive (to replace so many players), unless you’re seeing some good young players come through the academy.
“That’s going to be an expensive project and we all know Rafa demands players. It’s going to be a tough one if he does (join Palace) to get the players he wants to come in.”