Wilfried Zaha eyeing Cristiano Ronaldo link-up as shock Saudi Arabia switch tempts Crystal Palace star

 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

Wilfried Zaha is considering a move to link up with Cristiano ­Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia, after ­rejecting multiple offers to extend his contract at Crystal Palace.

Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr are one of three Saudi clubs to have sounded out Zaha about a free transfer at the end of the season, and the 30-year-old is understood to be interested in a switch to the Gulf state. Palace increasingly fear Zaha will leave when his deal expires at the end of the season.

AC Milan also have serious interest in the Ivory Coast international, but he is open to the idea of becoming the next big-name player to move to the Saudi Pro League.

Ronaldo signed for Al-Nassr on an extraordinary £165million-a-year contract in December, and the Saudis are keen for more high-profile signings after seeing the impact the former Manchester United forward has had on overseas viewing figures, stadium attendances and general domestic interest in the sport.

Ronaldo is said to have attracted TV deals from almost 40 new countries, and his transfer has increased interest from European and South American talent over moving to Saudi. Al-Hillal and Al-Ittihad are also considering a move to sign Zaha in the summer.

Dual threat: Wilfried Zaha is interested in joining forces with Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr (Evening Standard)
Dual threat: Wilfried Zaha is interested in joining forces with Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr (Evening Standard)

Funding for big-money transfers comes from the state, with Saudi clubs asking for finances to buy talent considered to be in the top 150 players in the world who can grow the league. Zaha is thought to be considered in that bracket and would become the second most important player in Saudi Arabia.

Former Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina also plays for Al-Nassr, with former Leeds and Wolves forward Helder Costa at Al-Ittihad and former Paris Saint-Germain and West Brom midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak at Al-Shabab.

There appears little prospect of Zaha signing a new deal at Palace, despite talks over an increase on his £130,000-a-week wages.

Zaha has made 450 appearances for his boyhood club, but looks set to leave this summer. He has missed their past three matches due to a hamstring injury, but returned to training last week and is closing in on a return that would boost Palace, who are winless in 2023.