Roy Hodgson has delivered Everton a huge boost in the club’s hopes of signing Wilfried Zaha after admitting Crystal Palace expect to face a fight to retain the forward this summer.
The 28-year-old Ivory Coast international has been heavily linked with moves away from Selhurst Park in recent years, but was blocked from leaving south London in 2019 by the Eagles demanding no less than £100m.
Zaha was claimed at the time to have handed in a transfer request after Everton saw a bid worth £70m plus James McCarthy rejected, in a deal that would also have seen Palace take Cenk Tosun on loan for the season.
The Toffees have continued to harbour an interest in luring Zaha to Goodison Park, with reports last summer claiming that a revised approach was on the cards as Carlo Ancelotti is a big admirer of the £130,000-per-week dynamo.
But, while no bid was tabled last summer despite Crystal Palace allegedly lowering their asking price to £30m amid the coronavirus pandemic, Hodgson expects sides to be queuing up at Zaha’s door come the end of the campaign.
“I think when the market opens up again Wilf Zaha will again be a name on many managers and Sporting Directors’ lips, and Wilf will retain his ambition of playing Champions League football and doing things we have not been able to give him while he has been playing here,” Hodgson said, via quotes by FourFourTwo.
“But I am hoping and believing also that the club will still be trying to persuade him that what he needs to get out of football he can get here and how that will pan out? I couldn’t say.
“He is good enough to play at other clubs, but also he is a player we would really like to keep here because he has been so important for us and he is very important to all the fans and everyone around the club.”
With Hodgson already accepting that interest will be inevitable in Zaha come the end of the season, Ancelotti should be urging Everton’s majority owner Farhad Moshiri to bankroll a swoop for the 28-year-old to ensure the Toffees are ahead of the queue.
Zaha sparked Marco Silva and Blues Director of Football Marcel Brands to bid £70m for his services in 2019 after providing 10 goals and 10 assists in 34 Premier League games during the previous campaign.
The 2019/20 season was far less fruitful for the 18-cap international, netting just four times and creating five goals. But he has clearly rediscovered the edge that Tony Cascarino believes makes him “unplayable” on his day, as Zaha already has nine goals and two assists to his name after 19 appearances in the top-flight this term.
Ancelotti would no doubt love to have a goalscorer as prolific as Zaha to support his top-scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin (13 goals), with James Rodriguez (5) the next best at Goodison Park as Richarlison continues to struggle.
Only seven players across the Premier League are offering a higher hit rate of key passes per game than Rodriguez (1.9) thus far, but no top-flight figure provides as many from long range than the Colombian (1.1), per WhoScored.
Everton also have Lucas Digne creating chances, with only Wolves’ Pedro Neto (1.9) and Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie (1.9) offering a greater average number of accurate crosses a game than the French full-back (1.8) ).
Zaha will likely not be cheap but that should not stop Ancelotti from trying his luck at adding the Ivory Coast international to his squad at Everton this summer.
AND in other news, Everton have their eyes on a £10m+ striker boasting 18 goals this season…