Given that we inhabit a stat-obsessed age, it makes little sense that Aaron Wan-Bissaka remains so under-rated from some quarters. The figures that have accompanied his quick rise to prominence are little short of astonishing and we will get to them very shortly. Surely though they should be praised from the rooftops, not over-looked? There is however two very different types of under-appreciation.
The most obvious example of the first kind is James Milner, whose impact and influence for the bulk of his career was taken for granted. Then there is Crystal Palace’s fantastically promising right-back who typifies the latter kind: a player whose introduction to professional football has been so immense he is immediately furnished with large quantities of hype and from that hype comes the inevitable backwash of negativity.
He is not then ‘under-rated’ in the truest sense. It’s just that some people believe quite strongly that he is over-rated.
Roy Hodgson – as you would expect from a seasoned sage of the game – was aware of the possibility of this happening all the way back in August of last year. He spoke of the need to allow the 21-year-old to continue learning his trade ‘without trying to raise him up on pedestals to then saw the legs off the pedestals when it suits’.
It was a commendable sentiment but ultimately a doomed one. Because after making an immediate impact with some fine displays at the tail-end of the previous campaign, the Croydon-born defender went on to have a damn-near immaculate 2018/19.
Per Whoscored, around the midway point of the campaign, nobody had made more successful tackles than Wan-Bissaka across Europe’s top five leagues, and his success rate of 92.8% astounds. From 83 attempted take-ons he was dribbled past just six times. His imperious performances as a whole earned him four club Player of the Month awards and last month he pipped Wilfried Zaha to the Player of the Year garland.
‘Ah, but he doesn’t do much going forward,’ his critics chime, which is such an English response to focus only on the ordinary aspects of a phenomena. Even this charge, however, is not entirely fair: Wan-Bissaka provided three Premier League assists this season, a return that saw him match Kieran Trippier and better Kyle Walker’s output – two players who will surely fade from international reckoning as the Palace ace and Trent Alexander-Arnold battle for the England right-back berth. Furthermore, Wan-Bissaka started out as a winger. He has the chops.
For now though he concentrates on destruction over construction and for this role he is truly a generational talent, so it was little surprise when Manchester United reportedly showed their hand last week with a £25m bid readied.
The figure was insulting. It was derisory. That sum in today’s climate gets you a bench dweller for a top-six side who is knocking well into their late twenties. Wan-Bissaka is a superstar-in-the-making who has played like a superstar from the off.
If Palace are to sell their crown jewel, the swooping vultures will have to submit an offer which is representative of his true value.
His performances on his breakout campaign prove that could well be a figure in the region of £50 million – one which appears to be the going rate for exuberant, prodigious and homegrown talents at fellow Premier League clubs.