“His legs crossover at dizzying speeds, moving in the same motion as an electric whisk on the verge of baking your brain into a confused frenzy,” writes Yvens Tiamou
Wilfried Zaha might be the most pleasing player that people aren’t watching this season, if that makes any sense to you?
While most are focusing their attention on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, waltzing their way into the echelons of Premier League history, or perhaps on the unhealthy growing trend of inflated player prices, my eyes are drawn elsewhere.
It is in Crystal Palace where my attention is held a willing hostage. Selhurst Park to be exact, where a not-so-young-anymore Zaha is rebuilding his craft that will one day see him sail away towards a bigger club.
He was once offered that big move earlier in his career when the Theatre of Dreams sang its enchanting tune for him, though prematurely. The Championship – during the 2012/13 season – was his playground, and what was left in his wake were strewn bodies, defeated by a combination of his grace and skill.
Zaha was 20 years old when Man United came calling, uplifting him from the Championship to the Premier League, the big time. Things didn’t quite happen for him in Manchester, though. The reasons vary, depending on who you ask, but Zaha soon returned back to the place where he wore a smile on his face, Selhurst Park.
Not wanting to stay long in the past, we arrive at the present day – the 2017/18 campaign. We meet a matured Zaha, now 25, whose slender body of the past has now attached itself to muscle and size. He has built his stature up to fight against the harsh winters of the Premier League’s physicality.
Palace themselves started this season in poor fashion, and looked destined for the drop, but still there was one shining beacon that emitted the light that attracted me.
He slaloms over futile tackles with lithe movements that leave me questioning whether he’d be a gold medallist at the Winter Olympics if his chosen sport was not football. His legs crossover at dizzying speeds, moving in the same motion as an electric whisk on the verge of baking your brain into a confused frenzy. Throwing into the mixing bowl his blistering pace, Zaha sends Palace fans into ecstasy when the ball sits at his feet.
But with great power comes sometimes irresponsibility. Zaha has been spoken about in the media, though not in a way that you would like, nor I. At times this season he has been questioned about his acts of simulation, with some factions on social media championing for retrospective bans.
The Abidjan-born, Ivory Coast international divides opinion. His playing style invites trouble, but dare we beat his provoking artistry out of him? Is it showboating or expression? Did he go down easy or was there contact? Like I said, he divides opinion.
My biggest regret is that I will not have the chance to witness him paint the World Cup in his image this summer. Internationally, Zaha has opted to represent his country of birth, not England and the swathes of hurdles that would have brought. Yet, he was unable to help Ivory Coast qualify for the 2018 World Cup. I’d happily trade my three wishes for a chance to see him play amongst the best in the world if it were possible.
Regardless, Zaha is slowly rebuilding his craft that will best the harsh currents of a move to a bigger and more fruitful club. I have a strong feeling that this time, he won’t end up washed ashore.
Words by Yvens Tiamou