Goalscoring midfielders do not grow on trees.
And, with Conor Gallagher expected to return to Chelsea in the off-season, the branches could look a little bare for a Crystal Palace side who will be forced into the market in a desperate pursuit of a readymade replacement.
“The fans love him, I love him and the players in the dressing room respect and love him,” Patrick Vieira told 90Min following Palace’s 1-0, final day victory over Manchester United on Sunday.
“I think it was a really good season for Conor. We are really pleased and happy with the year he spent with us and we wish him good luck and all the best.”
In truth, Gallagher’s outstanding form throughout much of 2021/22 was something of a double-edged sword for Crystal Palace. The more goals he scored, the more unlikely it became that the three-time England international would be returning for a second spell at Selhurst Park.
According to reports, Frank Lampard could use his Stamford Bridge connections to lure Gallagher to Goodison Park for next term. The Everton boss is confident that a deal can be reached.
But what if we told you that Crystal Palace could sign another free-scoring central midfielder without needing to break the bank? One who has actually found the net more frequently than Gallagher over the last 10 months?
Who will replace Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher at Crystal Palace?
“I have voice messages on my phone from a person at Crystal Palace who influences the club’s transfer policy,” explains Alexander Manyakov, the agent of Dynamo Moscow ace Daniil Fomin.
“He says in plain text: ‘I really like Fomin, he is one of the candidates, but we are now focused on acquiring (Donny) van de Beek.’
“The Dutchman did not go to Crystal Palace but ended up at Everton. And there was practically no time to carry out the transition of Fomin before the closing of the window. But I can confirm the interest of Crystal Palace.”
With Erik ten Hag expected to hand Van de Beek a fresh start at Manchester United – the pair worked together at Ajax after all – don’t be surprised if Fomin goes from second choice to number one target over the summer months.
Especially after the Russia international finished 2021/22 with 12 goals and five assists – better statistics than Gallagher produced at Palace, albeit in a weaker league.
And while many of Fomin’s goals have come from the penalty spot, do not underestimate the usefulness of a player capable of finding the net from 12 yards. Palace, after all, have missed four penalties since the start of last season.
Russian publication MetaRatings claimed in January that Crystal Palace were willing to fork over £4 million for Fomin. A damn sight less than Chelsea would demand for Gallagher.