Wilfried Zaha: Would he be worth the money?

The winger might well get his big move this summer, but have teams missed the boat on his most productive period?

4:00pm on Tuesday 11th August 2020
Paul Macdonald

It's been a long way back to a big club, but Wilfried Zaha may finally get his big move this summer after years of speculation.

The winger has just concluded his sixth season at Crystal Palace after his disastrous move to Manchester United had reached its conclusion. Signed by Sir Alex Ferguson but managed by David Moyes, it was clear that Moyes did not trust him from the beginning.

He was limited to two substitute appearances in the league in 13/14 before being farmed out on loan to Cardiff, and despite Moyes eventually being sacked there was no way back for Zaha, who was offloaded to Palace.

Zaha said at the time: "For some games I was not even on the bench. That was tough, very frustrating. You need the manager to trust you and that was not the case.

"Raheem Sterling went through a tough period at Liverpool and there was talk of him going out on loan. But Brendan Rodgers trusted him and he was allowed to get that experience and pull through."

He has spent the last six years proving he is worthy of returning to the top and during that period has produced spells of high quality which suggested that a move was imminent.

And yet, it never came. Palace's high demands increased the risk for a player that had already 'failed' once, and he has stayed there. He has quite obviously outgrew his surroundings, but it almost feels like a move now is too late.

Wilfried Zaha: Season Stats

Zaha 17/18-19/20

Goals P900.320.30.11
Ass P900.110.150.08
Dribbles P904.73.44.3
Big Chances863
xG P900.340.190.14
xA P900.190.160.1

The data is pretty clear - Zaha's output has decreased markedly this season. Whether he knows that he has achieved everything he ever will at Selhurst Park, or whether his head has already been turned on a potential move, his form just isn't good enough to suggest he is worth the type of fee Palace would expect to command.

A combined goal contribution of 0.19 P90 is pitiful for a player who is, essentially, Palace's main creative outlet. And it doesn't get much better looking at expected totals, with 0.24 xG + xA P90 just nowhere near good enough.

Zaha's contributions are down from 0.43 P90 in 17/18 and 0.45 P90 and it begs the question whether you are buying a return to that potential at a bigger team.

But Zaha is 28 in November. That might seem as if he is entering his prime, but teams that can afford what Palace would want - probably in the region of £60m, if not more - are pivoting to a younger squad with a focus on sell-on value. Zaha's sell-on value into his 30s is drastically reduced and there's very little chance of making back much, or any, of that fee.

And Zaha has been used to attacking play coming through him, the ball being recycled in his direction and he gets to run at the full-back. He is largely still as successful at taking on and beating defenders, but the end product hasn't been there. Zaha has just one goal in two assists in 2020.

Zaha has been a talented player at Palace and has played a pivotal role in retaining their Premier League status for so long. But the question would be - would you be overspending on a player who is already past his peak?

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