Midfield is one of the most important areas of a team, especially teams like Crystal Palace who want to have the ball. Therefore, the loss of Conor Gallagher is sure to be felt by the team – his presence in the middle of the pitch was among the most satisfying parts of the 2021-22 season. With the player almost certain to be staying in Chelsea, though, Palace need to get creative – and quick – on finding a suitable replacement. One player who looks to fit the bill would be Cheick Doucoure.
Alongside Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo, Doucoure has been a long-term target for the club. The 22-year-old Mali international was outstanding in the previous season, outshining his teammates as Lens pushed up the table and impressed for much of the year. It is not only last year, though, that Doucoure has been a shining light in the French game – he has been a growing name within France for some time now.
With the player seen as the number one target, missing out on him now would be a hammer blow to the squad’s development. Seen as the ideal addition – an athletic, technically sound defensive midfielder – Doucoure would give Palace much of what they were lacking.
Critics of the team last year could point to how open they could be when it comes to the counterattack. The introduction of the technically outstanding and physically imposing Malian, though, would soon offer a solution to that problem.
At the moment, a fee of around £20m is being asked for but it is expected that Palace will agree a deal closer to the £15m mark. A highly exciting midfielder with great athletic ability, Doucoure would be the ideal start to what should be a pretty busy summer for the team.
Lens already moving to find a replacement
One piece of news that should hearten fans is the fact that Lens are already buying new midfielders. The French club have agreed to a deal for Salis Abdul Samed, a Ghanaian international who will arrive from Clermont. This would mean that a player is already in the door who can play where Doucoure is. Many clubs like Lens tend to want to buy a replacement before selling, so they do not have to overpay for their replacement hire.
With a fee of around £17m expected to be the magic end result, then, Palace should be able to secure the signing by mid-July. This would give the player key adaptation time in the league and in the country, and allow him to get settled in. The aim is to have him arrive for the pre-season tour of Singapore which will kick off in July. If he is not with the team by the second leg of the tour, in Australia, then things might change. For now, though, there is justified confidence around the club that Cheick Doucoure will be wearing a Crystal Palace shirt for the 2022-23 season – and hopefully for many years beyond that.