As a player who has grown in stature ever since he first took to the senior game, Wilfried Zaha has become the modern face of Crystal Palace. The Eagles forward started out as a youngster in the cash-stripped era under Neil Warnock and co. – he was soon off to Manchester United, becoming one of the final gifts that Alex Ferguson left to the Old Trafford club.
Personality issues, game time, and a lack of belief meant that Zaha was soon back in South London where he feels comfortable. Since returning to Palace, Zaha has shown that he has a legacy at the club that can match the legends like Ian Wright and Mark Bright.
However, numerous options to leave have come up over the years and while the player was keen to explore, nothing has ever come off. As it stands, Palace could see Zaha play out his entire peak as a South Londoner.
That would be a big shock, but it would also further add to his already growing legacy. The FA Cup Final defeat to United would have turned Zaha from an icon to one of the most famous players in the clubs history. However, with 400 games in his locker for the team, coach Patrick Vieira was clear that Palace, and Zaha, could be very proud of their results and progress in those years together.
50 Premier League goals have since come, including some truly special moments. And while Zaha has never been the most prolific player, which has perhaps played a role in his sticking around, few could ever doubt his natural ability.
What did Patrick Vieira say about Wilf Zaha?
Having come through the clubs academy, Palace fans can be very proud that one of their own has made it so big. Surprisingly, though, the return to Palace has lasted much longer than most would have assumed. When asked about what he thinks of Zaha so far, Vieira was quoted as saying: “I think this is something that I am sure he will be proud of after his career. When you become a top player and a respected player in a football club, it is something that makes you proud about yourself.
“Wilfried has a really good and strong relationship with the football club and the fans. The fans love him and he loves the fans.
“He loves being at this football club. I think he will realise how important it is when the career is finished. This is when you will realise what you have been doing for a football club and how special it is.”
He was not the only player to come under immense praise from the new Palace coach, with Vieira also praising summer arrival Michael Olise. Olise opened his account for the club in the draw with Leicester, and Vieira noted that he “can play in different positions” and was effusive of his praise about the player.
The future for Palace, then, looks bright – and who knows? That future might just contain Zaha for a while yet.