Arsenal icon Emmanuel Petit believes his old side should acquire the Ivory Coast forward, ignoring the difficulty in prising away the wantaway star
With Wilfried Zaha it feels like we’ve been here before: The Crystal Palace star publicly reveals his intentions to play at a higher level nearly every summer only to be deemed too expensive by potential suitors.
In a very on-brand move, the 28-year-old stated last month that he sees himself challenging for and winning the biggest trophies at club level, following his yearly inclination to push for a transfer.
“My dream is to win things. I’m good enough to go out there and compete with the best. If the opportunity came, I wouldn’t turn it down, because I feel like I deserve it,” the Palace attacker told The Face in May. “It’s so I can show my kids, ‘This is what daddy won’. I’m 28, but my career’s still hot.
“People thought I was done: going to Manchester United and that not working out, me going to Cardiff (on loan from Old Trafford), but I’ve gone back to Palace, restarted my career, and I’ve stayed relevant and hot throughout this time.”
Zaha’s head may have been turned after a failed transfer to Arsenal in 2019 — resulting in one of the most underwhelming campaigns in his prime — but, truly, the West African has been ‘hot’ for the majority of the time since 2014.
With the Eagles seemingly plateauing in the Premier League, that desire to depart has probably never been more evident.
Former Arsenal midfielder and 1998 World Cup winner, Emmanuel Petit, wants his ex-side to make the wide attacker’s dream a reality, insisting that a move for the Ivorian represents a return to the club’s old ways with rampaging wingers doing damage in the attack.
“Wilfried Zaha has been repeatedly linked with Arsenal in recent years,” the former Gunners midfielder told Paddy Power. “Arsenal used to play with wingers and guys who could make a difference on the flank, who would take responsibility and show the hunger and desire to get the victory – that was the Arsenal that I knew!
“When I played for Arsenal in the late 90s, we had Marc Overmars, Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires – these players were so exciting to watch. Zaha is an unpredictable player, you don’t know what he’s going to do with the ball. He’s exactly the kind of player Arsenal need.
“For ages, they haven’t had a player who could dribble or make a difference with the ball at his feet. With Zaha, they would have somebody capable of taking responsibility and not scared to take on defenders.”
Two years have passed since the Ivorian couldn’t get his move to the Emirates Stadium, and it remains to be seen if the Gunners will return for the forward this summer. Now 28, his age means the North London side may prefer younger players yet to hit their prime when considering transfer targets.
He turns 29 in November and will hit the 30-year mark at the start of his second season at the club, which makes a potential transfer tougher to justify.
Arsenal already have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (31, turns 32 on June 18), Alexandre Lacazette (30) and Willian (32) on their books and the addition of another player close to 30 may not enthuse an already disgruntled fanbase or appeal to the higher-ups at the Emirates.
Admittedly, their stance may soften or change if a couple of the aforementioned players depart — Willian is said to be on his way out, while Lacazette’s future is uncertain — thus making room for a player of Zaha’s age and profile.
Having said that, Palace’s reported asking price — believed to be between £40 million to £50 million — may still prove to be a stumbling block for interested buyers.
Given that the Selhurst Park outfit could lose several players this summer, there’d be a desire to get as much as possible for their star player to re-invest in the squad.
However, Zaha’s current situation begs the question: why sign a five-year extension in 2018 knowing full well your long-standing ambition to compete at the highest level?
Even more astonishing is that the ex-Manchester United winger didn’t negotiate for a reasonable release clause even if it meant accepting lesser wages at the time.
That absence of foresight has frustrated the Ivory Coast man’s aspirations and may well leave him unfulfilled after this summer transfer window. Indeed, his age and Palace’s asking price suggests the Zaha ship may just have sailed.