It was the transfer saga of the summer in the Premier League until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Many expected Arsenal’s pursuit of Wilfried Zaha, which had seen the Gunners make bids like someone on minimum wage trying to spread payments for a luxury car over as many years as a mortgage, to go right to the wire. Instead, the chase stopped well before then.
Frustrated by a lack of movement on Crystal Palace’s side, Arsenal made the decision to switch targets, completing the signing of Ivory Coast winger Nicolas Pepe from Lille earlier this week. The £72 million transfer fee will reportedly be paid in instalments, just as the Gunners proposed for Zaha.
While this might have ticked a box for Arsenal, though, it leaves Zaha without the move he clearly wanted. The 26-year-old has made clear his desire to leave Crystal Palace this summer, to take the next step in his career. But with just one week of the summer window left Zaha’s route out of Selhurst Park has disappeared.
Everton made a bid, but they too seem to have turned their focus elsewhere. Napoli, having been beaten to Pepe by Arsenal, have been linked, but it’s unknown just how firm the Serie A outfit’s interest is. For a player of Zaha’s skillset, it’s peculiar that he will, it seems, be left sitting on the shelf.
Liverpool could do a lot worse than making a move. Having been linked with a slew of big names including Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and even Matthijs de Ligt earlier in the window, Jurgen Klopp has been clear that the club will only move for players when they feel they are the right fit. “This year is not the end of Liverpool FC,” he said. “Next year there will be another transfer window. This team is really good and we have invested a lot in it. Now we have to work with that.
“I can’t say anything about what other teams are doing. I don’t know how they do it. We have to pay bills. Sorry. Everybody has to pay bills; we have to pay bills. We invested money in this team. Now it looks like we are not. But we are not in this fantasia land where you just get whatever you want. You cannot do it constantly.”
Zaha, however, would give Liverpool something different. He is a player who likes to drive at opposition defences, possessing the ability to cut inside or go on the outside. It’s the latter quality that would offer Klopp another option in attack.
The Reds already possess the most potent frontline in the Premier League, but Zaha would give them yet another edge.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Zaha would be an automatic starter at Anfield. Sadio Mane already performs the role of stretching the pitch for Liverpool, even if he doesn’t quite possess the sheer single-mindedness of Zaha in driving towards goal with the ball at his feet.
But Liverpool are so dependent on their front three that an injury or suspension to any one of Firmino, Mane or Salah could have a real impact on their season. Xherdan Shaqiri gave them depth over the first half of last season, but Klopp soon seemed to lose faith in the Swiss. Divock Origi very effectively deputised for the injured Roberto Firmino for a spell, but playing the Belgian requires Klopp to alter his style slightly.
There may be questions over Zaha’s willingness to track back and help out on the defensive side, but this would be asked of him at any other elite club. He would fit Liverpool’s fast and furious style well and while there is no real reason to believe it will happen, at least this summer, there’s a strong case to be made that it should.