Wilfried Zaha Profile
|Born||Nov 10, 1992|
|Birthplace||Abidjan, Ivory Coast|
Wilfried Zaha has spent the majority of his career at Crystal Palace, bouncing back to become a key player after a frustrating stint at Manchester United.
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is a fan favourite at the club having joined the Eagles aged 12.
Born in Ivory Coast, Zaha moved to England aged four with his eight siblings, but represents his birth country at international level despite making two friendly appearances for the Three Lions between 2012 and 2013.
He has spent the majority of his professional career in London with Crystal Palace, but did briefly join Manchester United in 2013. His stint with the Red Devils proved to be unsuccessful and he rejoined Palace permanently again in 2015 following two loan spells back at the club.
Crystal Palace breakthrough
After impressing in Crystal Palace's academy, Zaha made his debut for the club aged just 17 in 2010. He came on as a substitute for Stern John with 10 minutes remaining against Cardiff City.
That ended up being Zaha's only appearance of the 2009/10 season, but ahead of the next campaign he signed his first ever professional contract, and big things were expected to come from the winger.
Zaha made his mark immediately in the pre-season and quickly became a permanant first team player. He scored his first goal in August 2010 in a 3-2 victory over Leicester City. He played a total of 44 matches in his first full season, registering one goal and two assists.
In the next season, Zaha grabbed the attention of some of England's most celebrated clubs, among them Liverpool and Manchester United, with the Palace attacker having impressed against the latter in a shock League Cup win.
In March 2012, Zaha's stock rose further as he secured his first major personal accolade, becoming The Football League's Young Player of the Year. Furthermore, at the end of the season, he was named Crystal Palace's Young Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. He finished a productive campaign with nine goals and five assists.
Once again the youngster started the next season very well and in October he netted twice against Watford, then four days later repeated the feat against Burnley. Crystal Palace started the season well and by January big clubs were circling for Zaha's signature.
Move to Old Trafford
On January 25, 2013, Zaha joined Manchester United on a five-and-a-half year contract for a fee of £10million, rising to £15million with add-ons. He was immediately loaned back to Crystal Palace for the second half of the season.
In March, the Ivorian scored his first goal since his loan move back to Selhurst Park in an important 4-2 victory over fellow promotion- chasers Hull City. The Eagles enjoyed a successful season and Zaha would play in the play-offs for the first time in his career.
In the second leg of the play-off semi-final, Zaha scored twice against rivals Brighton and Hove Albion, a team that he has since had great success against.
His two goals helped The Eagles to the final at Wembley where they mey Watford. Zaha won and converted a penalty to fire Palace into the Premier League, end the club's long absence from the top flight.
Following his elation at Palace, it was down to earth with a bump at Manchester United.
He made his first appearance for the Red Devils in the Community Shield against surprise FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic. Zaha played 61 minutes before being replaced by Antonio Valencia as United went on to win to secure the winger his first major team honour.
However, Zaha quickly fell out of favour and played only once in the League Cup and twice in the league before being loaned out to fellow Premier League club Cardiff City.
At the time, current Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in charge of the Welsh club. However, neither he or Zaha could prevent the side from succumbing to relegation.
Returning to his nest
In 2014/15, Zaha once again returned to boyhood club Crystal Palace, this time on a season-long loan.
Just two days later, he made an immediate impact, scoring against Newcastle United in stoppage time to rescue a point. On the last day of the January transfer window, Zaha made his move to Selhurst Park permanent in a £6million deal. Manchester United also included a future sell-on percentage of 25%.
Zaha rediscovered his best form and played 34 times in the Premier League, scoring four times and registering two assists. His contributions helped Palace to 10th in the league - their highest finish since the 1992/93 season.
Similarly, Zaha impressed and shone as one of Palace's key men during the 2015/16 season where he played 34 league matches, scoring twice and getting a sole assist.
His main contribution that season, though, was in the FA Cup where his two goals helped Palace to the final. Ironically, there they would face his former club, Manchester United. He played the full 120 minutes as Jesse Lingard won the game for the Red Devils.
Nevertheless, there was some personal satisfaction for Zaha at the end of the campaign as he was named Palace's Player of the Year for the first time.
The next season, Zaha scored seven goals and hit double digits in assists (11) in 35 Premier League appearances. Under Sam Allardyce, Palace managed a 14th-placed finish and Zaha retained his Player of the Year award.
Roy Hodgson was announced as Allardyce's successor and formed a close bond with Zaha as the Ivorian continued to prove the Eagles' talisman.
Palace made a sluggish start to the season, with Zaha missing out through injury but he returned for the first time in two months to play against Chelsea in October. He opened the scoring in a match that Palace ended up winning 2-1 to get their first points of the season on the board.
In April, he was rewarded for his performances by being named Premier League Player of the Month. With Palace lacking strikers, Zaha played in a more attacking role and scored four goals, including a brace against Brighton, in the month and grabbed one assist.
For the third year in a row he won the Player of the Year award for Palace, an achievement only matched by goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
In their first game of the next season, Zaha scored in a win over Fulham. It was his 23rd goal in the top flight, drawing him level with Chris Armstrong as Palace's Premier League top scorer.
Later that month, he moved out on his own with a goal against Watford.
Later in the season, after a winning goal against Huddersfield, Zaha spoke out about the lack of protection he receives on the pitch, claiming that he would need to break a leg before any action was taken. He was the second-most fouled player in the Premier League over the preceding five years, behind Eden Hazard.
His stats for goalscoring and assists both hit double figures for the first time in his career (ten apiece), which helped the Eagles to 12th.
The 2019/20 season was Zaha's least productive since rejoining the club. Although he played all 38 league matches, he only scored four goals, though that did include an excellent long-range strike against Chelsea.
Yet again, though, Palace did more than enough to retain their Premier League status, finishing 14th.
Zaha enjoyed a successful September 2020 on a personal level, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win against Southampton and then bagging a brace against former team Manchester United in a shock 3-1 victory.
He scored his 11th goal of the season against Aston Villa, which was a new personal best in a Premier League season for Zaha. Another 14th-placed finish helped Palace avoid the drop once again. Following the end of the season, Roy Hodgson retired from management.
Patrick Vieira took over for the 2021/22 season, and Zaha quickly bought into his philosophy. The Ivorian made his 400th club appearance for Crystal Palace and in the same match scored his 70th goal, again against Brighton.
International career with England and Ivory Coast
Zaha was able to represent England due to him moving to London at the age of four. He made his debut for the Three Lions in 2012 and played twice in non-competitive matches. These came against Sweden and Scotland and he only managed a combined playing time of 20 minutes.
He later said he did not regret switching allegiance to the country of his birth, Ivory Coast, even though his form at club level would have most likely earned him further opportunities for England.
Since making his debut for the African nation in 2016, the winger has gone on to make 21 appearances, scoring five goals. He started each game of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations as Ivory Coast were knocked out in the group stage.
He was also called up to their 2019 squad, with the Elephants this time reaching the quarter-finals. He scored twice in the tournament and they were defeated by eventual champions Algeria.
Zaha is dating Paige Bannister and the couple have two children together, Leo and Saint.
In March 2021, the Ivorian became the first player in the league to decide not to take a knee prior to a match kicking off. He stated that stronger action needed to be taken against racism, especially on social media.
Zaha's estimated net worth is £40million. His estimated salary at Crystal Palace is around £7million per year.