Tottenham Hotspur cool their interest in Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha

Dominic Fifield
Wilfried Zaha has enjoyed his most productive top-flight season yet, with six goals and nine assists so far, having signed a new long-term contract with Crystal Palace last year. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur could shelve their long-standing interest in Wilfried Zaha as a result of the Crystal Palace forward’s decision to represent Ivory Coast, amid concerns over his potential regular participation in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Zaha has enjoyed his most productive top-flight season yet, with six goals and nine assists so far, having signed a new long-term contract at Selhurst Park only last year. Palace, who are six points clear of the relegation zone with three games to play, have no desire to sell the 24-year-old and, once Premier League survival is achieved, intend to open talks over another deal to make him the highest paid player in the club’s history.

They had, however, been braced for Spurs to revive interest first expressed last August when a bid of only £12m was dismissed out of hand by the Palace chairman, Steve Parish. Mauricio Pochettino has long been an admirer of Zaha, who would add yet more raw pace and invention to Tottenham’s forward options, but the player’s decision to play for Ivory Coast despite having been capped twice in friendlies by England earlier in his career may now prompt Spurs to divert their interest elsewhere.

Zaha, with Palace’s blessing, successfully applied to Fifa towards the end of last year to represent the country of his birth. He was duly absent for almost four weeks, departing after a home defeat to Swansea on 3 January, while competing for Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, where his team failed to emerge from the group stage. The stunted nature of that campaign was considered a disappointment by the national set-up and, with that in mind, the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, would need some persuading to table a club record bid for a player who could potentially be absent mid-season for up to six weeks every two years.

Spurs’ current transfer record is the £30m paid to Newcastle United for Moussa Sissoko last summer, and they would have had to eclipse that amount considerably if Palace were ever to be persuaded into a sale. Indeed, the anticipated contract to be proposed by the player’s current club if safety is secured – worth up to £110,000 a week – would be above any offer Tottenham’s current wage structure would allow.

Parish has already made publicly clear that he does not envisage selling Zaha this summer and has received indications the player is happy to stay at the club through whose youth set-up he graduated. “He did get a new contract last summer,” the chairman told BT Sport when asked about a new deal in the wake of the weekend defeat to Burnley. “I don’t think it’s about necessarily if other people are interested in him. It’s about the value of the player and the value of the player within the squad. We’ve got other players earning certain amounts and that all has to come into consideration.

“Anybody would accept that Wilfried has developed as a player this season. Six goals, nine assists, by far his best tally in the Premier League. So you’ve got to look at that. As club owners and chairmen, you want to keep everyone happy. We don’t want Wilfried just to stay here because we tell him he’s got to stay here. We want him to have the right deal for him, commensurate to where he’s got to in his professional career. So that is what we’ll be sitting down and talking about.”

Tottenham’s priority target this summer could end up being Ross Barkley given the uncertainty around the England midfielder’s contractual situation at Everton. The England right-back, Kyle Walker, could yet formalise his desire to leave White Hart Lane in search of better terms elsewhere – most probably with Manchester City – having grown frustrated with the strict wage structure imposed by Levy. The player has already sought talks with Pochettino and was a notable absentee from the lineup for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and Sunday’s Premier League derby win over Arsenal.

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