Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson has revealed some more details about Wilfried Zaha’s failed move to Everton, suggesting that the Toffees were not a big enough club for the Ivory Coast forward.
It was an open secret that Zaha was looking to leave Selhurst Park over the summer, with Arsenal heavily linked with a move for the 26-year-old.
However the Gunners switched their attention to Lille’s Nicolas Pepe, leaving Zaha in limbo.
Everton expressed an interest in signing him and made a bid worth around £52 million in early July, but after that offer was rejected they too moved on to other targets.
That did not stop the speculation though, with muddled reports from varying sources claiming the Blues had made a second bid worth £70 million plus two players. Zaha even handed in a transfer request to try and force through a move, but no offer transpired and he remained in south London.
The Times is reporting today that Zaha has written to his agent requesting to terminate their agreement, as he is unhappy with his relationship with Palace chairman Steve Parish and the failure to secure a move away this summer.
Parish has always maintained that he was willing to sell Zaha if a suitable offer from the right club came in.
Hodgson has reiterated that stance, suggesting that Everton were not the right club for Zaha at this stage in his career.
“With Wilf, I don’t think anyone was thinking we definitely must block him because we want our best player still with us.
“We understood that if a really big offer comes his way and a much bigger club than Crystal Palace want him, and he is desperate to go, we are going to have to try and do some kind of deal.
“The unfortunate thing for Wilf is that offer did not come his way from the sort of club that he would want. I think Steve Parish has made that clear to Wilf and they’ve thrashed that side of it out.
“As a result it is not a major problem for me with Wilf coming back, having accepted the situation. The way he works here is just the same as it was. Since the first day he has been mature about it.”
Hodgson’s comments have been interpreted by many as a thinly veiled dig at Everton, suggesting that they are not much bigger than Crystal Palace.
I don’t see it that way; Hodgson has never been the type of manager to make such comments in order have a pop at rival sides.
Everton are clearly a bigger club than Crystal Palace, even Palace fans would admit that. But, as much as I hate to admit it, we are currently not in that bracket of elite clubs either, certainly in the eyes of those outside Goodison Park.
We are all aware of the illustrious history of the club, but a failure to win a trophy since 1995, just three years after Zaha was born, means it is little surprise that our stock has fallen amongst those not of a blue persuasion.
That only goes to highlight the predicament the club finds itself in. Currently positioned amongst a small group of clubs just outside the top six, they have to somehow find a way to break into the elite. Manchester City did so nine years ago by splashing out millions on transfer fees and wages, accruing heavy losses in the processes. Financial Fair Play regulations means that is no longer possible, meaning clubs have to be much more savvy in the transfer market.
That is what made Everton’s link with Zaha so curious in the first place as it suggested the Toffees had not learned their lessons from a few years ago.
The forward is 27 in November, would have cost in excess of £70 million and is likely to have asked for huge wages. That goes against the entire transfer policy of Marcel Brands, who is looking to bring younger players ripe for development and will only consider older players if they represent good value.
The last 27-year-old winger we signed for big money from Crystal Palace was Yannick Bolasie, and look where that got us.
I’m not saying Zaha is of the same level of Bolasie, he clearly has more ability. But I have yet to see evidence that he is the kind of elite-level player to justify such a massive investment either.
That explains why Everton walked away after their first bid was rejected, with reports of further bids written off as speculation.
The Premier League’s elite clubs obviously thought the same; otherwise they would have made a bid for him when he pushed for a move over the summer.
I suspect Palace knew this as well, so in only considering offers from “much bigger” clubs they gave themselves the best chance of keeping him at Selhurst Park.
Everton therefore were simply one facet of an increasingly complex transfer saga, with clubs, players and agents all pulling in different directions.
So rather than being enraged as Hodgson’s ‘dig’, Toffees fans should be encouraged. After all, Everton ended up signing Alex Iwobi instead who is younger, cost half the price and has scored two goals in his first two starts.
By demonstrating their unwillingness to overspend on Zaha, Everton have shown they have learnt from their mistakes, giving themselves the best possible chance of building a side capable of piercing that top six and maybe, just maybe, becoming that “much bigger” side once more in the near future.