Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha seems to attract new clubs by the day, but four major hitters in particular are likely to have a big say in where he ends up, should their interest in the player prove to be based in fact. With Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Real Madrid all believed to be tracking the England international's progress, talkSPORT look at which of the four clubs could be the best destination for him...
Arsene Wenger's faith in youth is unquestionable, so Zaha would be heading down a well trodden path should he choose to join Arsenal. The winger need only look at Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott for proof of how a player can succeed at the Emirates, but there are a few potential negatives to take into consideration too. The most obvious caveat is that Arsenal are no longer at the top of the pile when it comes to competing for trophies, and though their silverware drought will no doubt come to an end at some point in the future, it's hard to see that being a major trophy rather than minor cup success. While Arsenal can guarantee a stable environment, as well as a clear brand of football for Zaha to adapt to and hopefully accelerate within, it's worth being cynical and viewing the Emirates as what it really is these days: a stop gap where young talents can finalise their education as a player before moving on to an even bigger side.
The biggest factor in favour of a move to Manchester City is that they lack a player of Zaha's ilk, with little natural width in their team currently, so on the surface it looks like there would be a clear place in the squad for the 20-year-old. That being said, City don't have the best record of taking promising youngsters and converting them into the finished article, with plenty of talent still languishing in their reserves after moving to the Etihad on the promise of a bright career. Zaha need only look to Adam Johnson to see what happened to City's last young winger, too. Moreover, the dressing room at the Etihad is combustible to say the least, so is it really the best environment to thrust the impressionable youngster into? Perhaps if City can convince Pep Guardiola to join the club in the future things could change in Zaha's favour, as the Catalan coach is known for both his hatred of drama and faith in youth, but relying on City tying down the most wanted coach in world football is a flimsy basis on which to make a career-defining decision.
Few young footballers would turn down the opportunity to play and learn alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso, so the attraction of a move to Real Madrid is obvious. In recent years, the club have shown small signs of changing their attitude to younger players, too, with 19-year-old Raphael Varane and 20-year-old Alvaro Morata both making vital contributions to Real's current campaign. The prospect of instability does appear to be looming on the horizon at the Bernabeu however, with strong murmurs that both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho could leave the club in the summer, and both would leave huge gaps to fill. There's also the potential for a fan backlash towards Zaha should he come to Madrid, with increasing calls from sectors of the Bernabeu faithful for Florentino Perez to promote players from the youth academy rather than bring in new signings. A hostile atmosphere could work to the detriment of the winger, particularly when adapting to a new culture and a huge step up in level from the Championship to competing for the Champions League.
It's safe to say that Manchester United love quality wingers, and with Luis Nani likely to leave the club in the future, a space could open up in the United team for Zaha. Like Arsenal, United have a history of putting trust in youngsters, but unlike the Gunners, the Red Devils also still manage to win trophies while doing so. Moreover, with Alex Ferguson's time in management drawing to a close, Zaha could be one of the last players to learn from the tutelage of one of the greatest managers to grace the game, an opportunity that could disappear in a short period of time. Even when Fergie eventually does decide to call time on his career, United are certain to be extremely careful over who they appoint as their next manager, so the hugely succesful structure at Old Trafford isn't likely to change dramatically.
All four of the big clubs listed above have their unique merits, but crucially, one club in particular is both the least risky while still presenting ample opportunities for success. The allure of the glamour of Real Madrid is clear, but Zaha should look to Michael Owen's short lived spell at the Bernabeu for an example of how difficult it can be to adapt to playing at the Bernabeu. Unlike Madrid, Manchester City have an obvious need for Zaha's talents, but a locker room inhabited by inflated egos may be too much, too soon for a player used to the calm atmosphere at Crystal Palace. Arsenal, meanwhile, would no doubt provide the nurturing environment necessary for the winger to further hone his talents, but at the same time, when that process of learning is over, he's unlikely to have any major trophies to show for it. That leaves Manchester United, where Zaha could learn from one of the finest managers around before it's no longer possible to do so, while he also perfectly matches the Manchester United ethos of using exciting wingers as a key part of their play. Above all, it's likely that he would get his hands on silverware sooner rather than later at Old Trafford, and isn't that what every player really wants, after all?
Do you agree? Is Manchester United the most suitable destination for Wilfried Zaha? Leave a comment below and have your say...