What next for Wilfried Zaha and his future?

Move to Saudi Arabia for mega-money, enrich his legacy as Crystal Palace’s greatest ever player or fulfil a Champions League dream… with Wilfried Zaha’s contract up in the summer, Sportsmail weighs up his options

  • Wilfried Zaha’s contract with Crystal Palace expires at the end of this campaign
  • He has become a Palace legend, racking up almost 500 appearances for the club
  • Sportsmail weighs up what options Zaha could have on the table in the summer

Perhaps there won’t be many supporters rushing for their violins when they ponder Wilfried Zaha and his next run-up to judgment day.

The lure of £9million a year – after tax – in Saudi Arabia. Or the prospect of playing in the Champions League. Or the opportunity to enrich his legacy at Crystal Palace. Hardly lose-lose, is it? Hardly cause for an outpouring of sympathy from the stands.

And yet, for Zaha and the wider footprint he ultimately leaves on these shores, this next step matters. Big time.

The Ivory Coast international is out of contract at Selhurst Park in three months’ time. Now 30, Zaha will know that not many more forks in the road lie ahead. What he decides over the next few weeks could determine the final chapter of his career.

As revealed by Sportsmail this week, Zaha is wanted by Saudi side Al-Ittihad. They are willing to pay him £9million a season – net. Palace, meanwhile, are believed to have offered Zaha the most lucrative deal in the club’s history – worth up to nearly £200,000-per-week. 

Decision time is approaching for Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha with the forward’s contract expiring at the end of the season and he has several options on the table from across the globe

Just over a decade has passed since Zaha endured a disappointing spell with Man United

And then there are the ifs and maybes. Zaha will be a free agent soon and that paves the way for a possible move to one of Europe’s big clubs. AC Milan are among those believed to be tracking his process. In recent seasons, meanwhile, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have all shown an interest in the winger.

So what will he decide? That depends on what he wants.

Just over a decade has passed since Zaha first agreed to leave Crystal Palace for Manchester United.

He was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson but made just four appearances for the first team.

And that spell left a scar. To many supporters, it suggested he was not good enough to play at the very highest level. To Zaha, it was more complicated: he never felt David Moyes gave him a fair crack. He has never lost his desire to play in the Champions League, or to prove those doubters wrong.

Opportunities to return to England’s elite have been and gone – most notably in 2019, when he was wanted by Unai Emery but was prevented from joining Arsenal. So does he hold out in the hope that one of the so-called Big Six returns to the table this summer?

It’s a tricky balancing act. Particularly when the 30-year-old already has more concrete options.

He has played nearly 500 games for Palace and is viewed by many as their greatest ever player

Could Zaha, 30, follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and move to Saudi Arabia next? 

He can stay and earn big money at Palace, where he has made more than 450 appearances and is considered by many to be the club’s greatest ever player.

The Premier League side have not given up hope that Zaha will sign a new deal at Selhurst Park, which would offer him security, stability, assurances over playing time and, perhaps most important of all, a sense of responsibility upon which he thrives.

Zaha is said to enjoy the burden of being one of his team’s key players. He might not get that elsewhere. He would certainly be a big fish in the small pond of Saudi Arabia, where Al-Ittihad are not alone in hoping to secure his services. Al-Nassr – who recently signed Cristiano Ronaldo – are also eyeing the 30-year-old winger. A move to the desert would provide Zaha with the chance to secure his financial future – and possibly that of his family for generations to come. Even for the world of top-level football, the money on offer in Saudi Arabia is hard to ignore. 

But it would be a move fraught with its own risks: what if he misses the tussle of top-level competition? Would he regret choosing money over everything else? It’s a dilemma that Zaha must ponder. Time is ticking.

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