With a host of first-team regulars set to become free agents over the coming months, serious injuries to young stars mounting up and Wilfried Zaha leaving the door open to a summer exit once again, the task facing Roy Hodgson’s successor at Crystal Palace is already mounting up.
The Eagles’ chairman Steve Parish is expected to provide some funds in order to rebuild large sections of the playing squad, but it’s still expected to be a precarious time for the south London outfit as they enter the post-Hodgson era.
However, one man who could help Palace enjoy a smooth transitional period is already at the club. Jean-Philippe Mateta arrived on an 18-month loan deal with an option to buy back in January, although he failed to find his best form at Selhurst Park in 2020/21.
After impressing at parent club Mainz in the Bundesliga, bagging seven goals in 15 league appearances for the relegation-threatened outfit, Mateta earned himself a move to the Premier League, and big things were expected of the 23-year-old.
Despite his sizeable reputation and Palace’s mediocre form, the former France Under-21 international found himself restricted to just two starts in England’s top-flight in the second half of the recently-concluded campaign.
Mateta only managed to score a solitary goal in his 218 minutes of Premier League action under Hodgson, but his impressive performances at Mainz suggests that whoever replaces the former England boss could have a serious talent at their disposal.
With Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend amongst the players approaching the end of their current contracts at Selhurst Park, and Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi expected to return to his parent club, a gaping void in the capital club’s forward line is set to appear ahead of next season.
If the new Palace boss can unlock Mateta’s potential and extract the sort of displays that earned him a move to England in the first place, then life without their old guard will be something the club’s supporters can look forward to rather than fear.
He has the ability to become the Eagles’ new poster boy but he’s yet to be given a fair chance in south London. The next Palace regime must be brave enough to unleash the £13.5-rated beast (as per Transfermarkt) next season.