Wilfried Zaha still dreams about playing Champions League football – Roy Hodgson

George Sessions, PA
·3-min read

Roy Hodgson expects Crystal Palace will again face a fight to keep Wilfried Zaha this summer and believes the club’s top goalscorer retains his ambition of wanting to play in the Champions League.

The Eagles will get a glimpse at life after their talismanic attacker on Monday when they visit Leeds without the 28-year-old.

Zaha sustained a hamstring injury in last week’s win over Newcastle and Palace will attempt to secure a third straight win despite missing their nine-goal hitman.

Interest in the academy graduate remains high despite the Ivory Coast international signing a long-term deal at Selhurst Park three years ago, while the club rejected offers from Arsenal and Everton in the summer of 2019.

Asked if Zaha could finish his career at Palace, Hodgson admitted: “I would think he still has a lot of ambition.

“This was a very unusual transfer window, there wasn’t much going on and certainly weren’t many, if any, big-money moves. A lot of the transfers were loans with a view to buy.

“I think when the market opens up again Wilf Zaha will again be a name on many managers and sporting directors’ lips and Wilf will retain his ambition of playing Champions League football and doing things we have not been able to give him while he has been playing here.

“But I am hoping and believing also that the club will still be trying to persuade him that what he needs to get out of football he can get here and how that will pan out? I couldn’t say.

“He is good enough to play at other clubs, but also he is a player we would really like to keep here because he has been so important for us and he is very important to all the fans and everyone around the club.”

Zaha’s quest to play in the top tier of European football dates back to his short spell with Manchester United.

He failed to make the Red Devils matchday squad in the Champions League under David Moyes in the 2013-14 campaign before he left Old Trafford a year later to return to Palace.

Aged only 20 when he made the switch to United, Hodgson feels the versatile attacker has used that time to his benefit.

The Palace boss added: “Unfortunately it came a little bit early, but I think he has learnt from that experience.

“I do believe he has the ability but I would also say he is not at a bad club here either!

“He is at a place where he is very comfortable, everybody knows what we need to do for him and we know what he can do for us. It is not always that the grass is that much greener on the other side.

“A lot will depend, when offers come in for him, how he perceives that offer and that is another thing to factor in. As far as I am concerned, I am Crystal Palace and that is where I would like him to stay.”