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Wilfried Zaha & Chelsea? Why Max Meyer could change everything

COMMENT: Don't jump yet Wilf. Just think about what you're walking into - and what you're leaving behind...

Wilfried Zaha. From Crystal Palace to Chelsea. Yeah, on first flush it looks a great move - and for all involved. Zaha gets a fat contract. A chance for redemption after the Manchester United experience. And the stage to test himself at the elite level of the game.

Palace will get - or so they say - a record €75m. More than enough to cover those cashflow concerns which have forced Roy Hodgson, the Palace manager, to shop this summer in the loan and free agency markets.

But hang on, its just those limitations which should be forcing the Zaha camp into a stage of hesitation.

With a €75m deal inevitably comes a contract to reflect such terms. A contract that Palace, surely, will be incapable of matching. After all, this is Chelsea. If it came just down to money, there's no way Palace could compete - is there...?

Will Salthouse, Zaha's agent, should have spent the weekend redoing his sums. Max Meyer changes everything. For Palace. For Chelsea. And for Zaha. If there's some doubt about what lies ahead of him at Stamford Bridge, Zaha must know his financial concerns can be met by staying where he is. This past week, the board at Palace have shown just how far they're willing to go for the right player.

Meyer may've joined as a free agent. But the former Schalke midfielder hasn't come cheap. £160,000-a-week. £175,000. Even £180,000. Whatever the exact wages of the German are, you get the point. For the right player, Palace will push the boat out.

And that surely must give Zaha pause for thought. At Palace, he's it. Hodgson's team. His system. His tactics. Everything he approaches. It is all centred around bringing the best out of Zaha. Even with Meyer's arrival. Hodgson, with all the hope he could muster, will have green lit the deal with the aim of Meyer complementing the Ivory Coast international. The German, so Hodgson hopes, is arriving to enhance Zaha, not replace him.

At Chelsea, no matter what those speaking to Salthouse are urging him to relay to Zaha, he'll be one of many. Even Pedro just ended any doubts about his status by penning a new deal at the Bridge. Maurizio Sarri has stated he wants Willian to stay - and will insist upon the same to Eden Hazard today when the Belgian appears for his first training session of the preseason. Price-tag or no price-tag. Zaha will have to start all over again.

And he'll be doing so knowing he's not a Sarri signing. That's not to say the Italian won't work with him. But he hasn't recommended Zaha. He barely knows him. As Robert Green's arrival from Huddersfield Town proved - the new manager is happy to leave transfer business to those upstairs.

But it won't be David Moyes all over again. For one thing, four years on, Zaha is a very different player. A different man. He's nothing like the raw talent signed by Sir Alex Ferguson at United, but then passed onto Moyes.

For all the personal regret. The slights thrown at United, Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Zaha is a better player for that experience. It was the making of him - as Alan Pardew has said. More than anyone, the former Palace manager is responsible for the player Zaha has become today.

"People say it was a bad experience for him at Old Trafford, but I don't agree," Pardew says. “It was probably good for him to have a knockback. It's put bit more fight in him."

And, if it is to be Chelsea this week, it's that mentality which will be attractive to Sarri. Think Dries Mertens and Napoli. The comparison is just too good to ignore. A good, solid winger before Sarri was able to get his hands on him. The Belgian would be transformed at Napoli into one of the most prolific and exciting strikers in the game. Sarri will be looking at Zaha with similar plans - and will know he arrives, at 25, younger and blessed with more natural talent than his former Napoli No14.

Zaha can make it Chelsea. The work of Hodgson - and before him, Pardew - has him ready for such a stage. And if it clicks, to see Zaha at the top of his game in the Sarri-ball system would be breathtaking.

Pardew again: "I spoke to Alex Ferguson about him recently and he still thinks he's destined to be a top player. Alex still talks about the qualities Wilf has – the pace, the power, the constant energy to run from start to finish."

But there'll be no guarantees at Chelsea. At least nothing like he has at Palace. The Meyer contract may not change Zaha's destiny this week, but it will have made him think twice over the weekend.

Is he willing to start all over again...?


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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