Having had first hand experience of his talent least season as Crystal Palace knocked Manchester United out of the Carling Cup, the youngster has gone from strength to strength and this season made his England senior team debut.
It was only so long before the Premier League’s finest started sniffing around him and whilst Tottenham and Arsenal have been linked with him, the press are claiming Manchester United are in the lead for the 20 year old’s signature.
So we asked James Daly from Five Year Plan to spill the beans on the country’s hottest youngster:
Palace fans don’t ask for much. Our team isn’t a Premier League top 4 side, we aren’t challenging for European glory, we don’t have millions of fans worldwide, we don’t even really have a decent stadium. So it’s the little things that we take pleasure from, especially seeing local lads come through the academy and do well.
And Wilf Zaha is probably the best example we have.
Born in the Ivory Coast but raised in South London he’s gone from being a scrawny youth team player who struggled to get into the side, into one of the most talked about Palace players ever.
Watching him week in week out it’s no surprise, he is way too good for this level. United fans will have already seen him up close when he impressed during the Carling Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford last season, in fact that was one of the first big steps we’d seen him take. He was doing well against Championship defences but we wondered how he’d do against a top fight one. In reflection, he nailed it.
And since then he’s got better and better. His work rate has increased; he now tracks back and works harder off the ball, he’s bulked up to the point where defenders bounce off him, and his decision making has improved massively, resulting in more goals and assists.
And all this (usually) with a smile on his face and the sort of freedom of expression you usually only see from players at the top of their game. Wilf is still only 20 and has a long way to go.
What’s interesting is that his best games in a Palace shirt have often come against ‘better’ defences. He tore Blackburn’s (still PL quality) defence a new one in Henning Berg’s first game and – after a quiet Christmas – looked back to his best against Stoke last weekend.
Is he worth £20m?
If Theo Walcott was worth £16m after a handful of games for Southampton, then I suppose he is seeing as he’s played 100+ games for Palace. We probably won’t get that sort of money, and there will be countless add-ons, but in terms of raw talent he’s the best I’ve ever seen in 20 years of watching Palace.
Most readers of Five Year Plan want him to go to Arsenal to be honest as their play would suit him most, but under Ferguson’s nurturing style he could do very well. To be honest, we just don’t want him to go to Spurs.
He struggled after his England call-up, that’s true, and he’s had a lot of pressure and attention following some interviews in the nationals, but he’ll have to deal with much worse.
Wilf is brilliant – and a really nice, down to earth kid to boot. He deserves lots of success and we only hoped it would be with us, especially as we still have a shot at promotion. But if he did leave we have lots of great players left – including Yannick Bolasie who is like Wilf two years ago, but rapidly improving.
We also have a host of youth team players champing at the bit to get involved.
If United signed Wilf I’d pray to god they played him lots and let him develop, because if so he could be one of the best ever