Sam Allardyce has urged Wilfried Zaha to “draw on his own experience and make his own decision” over his future, with Crystal Palace expecting to field bids from rival Premier League clubs for the Ivory Coast winger this summer.
Zaha, who rejoined Palace on a permanent basis in 2015 after an unhappy spell at Manchester United, has been the club’s most consistent attacking player over the past two seasons, with the current campaign – yielding six goals and nine assists to date – his most productive yet. Tottenham Hotspur, who Palace face at Selhurst Park on Wednesday night and had a bid of around £21m for Zaha dismissed out of hand by Palace last August, are expected to revive their interest at the end of the season.
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While the player is already signed to a long-term deal, talks will begin soon over a new contract which would see Zaha become the highest paid player in Palace’s history. Yet there are fears that the youth-team graduate, who joined the club when he was 12, could seek Champions League football or be advised to pursue his development elsewhere.
“I hope it’s not easy to turn Wilf’s head,” said Allardyce. “Wilf himself is a mature adult now. He’s seen an awful lot of what happens in football from a very young age, experienced a glory move which didn’t quite work out, and then come back here. While he gets advice from outside the club, I hope he draws on his own experiences and makes his own decisions rather than relying on what others are saying he should do. Of course we would hope he’d stay at Palace for the foreseeable future.
“As far as I know, Wilf’s contract has a considerable time to run. The summer will bring whatever it brings, whether it’s us negotiating a new contract and him wanting to stay, or some outrageous bid coming along. But he needs to stay here and play every week, and be the key man to Crystal Palace getting better and better. He’s had that since coming back from United. He’s getting closer to the final product. But I’m not in control of [whether he stays].”
There had been talk of Palace being prepared to accept £40m, though Parish has always made clear he has no intention to sell. Allardyce suggested that fee would fall well short of an acceptable price “in today’s market”.
“But I hope nobody bids it,” he said. “The problem we have at Palace, and at every club, is it’s like the housing market. You can think, oh goodie, I bought this house for this amount and I sold it for that, but then you go into the same market [to find a replacement].
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“Stay with what you’ve got, man. You’re dicing in a dangerous area unless you’re clever enough, and can keep it quiet enough, to do your business before you sell. But that’s nearly impossible these days. But, look, we haven’t had a bid yet. If we’re talking about a bid, we can have that conversation [with the player]. At the moment, I just want to see Wilf on the pitch, keeping himself in the headlines for the right reasons for the team. Who will be the hero Wednesday night? That’s what I want to find out. Can we find another hero?”
Allardyce, who fears he has lost James Tomkins for the rest of the season with an ankle injury sustained Liverpool, believes his team’s run of six wins in eight games – including victories against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal – is “the best run of results in the long Premier League career I’ve had”. Mamadou Sakho will return to the side against Spurs.