Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has admitted to holding talks with former Arsenal head coach Unai Emery regarding a move to North London in the summer of 2019, according to The Greatest Game Podcast via Goal.
The Ivorian winger was heavily linked with a move to the Emirates and came out publicly to state that he wanted to leave Palace and that he was a boyhood Arsenal fan. The Gunners were interested in securing his services but balked at his price tag and the fact that Crystal Palace wanted a majority of the fee paid upfront.
Emery is believed to have been a big fan of the player and saw him as a crucial part to his future plans at Arsenal. He pushed for the club to sign him but the Arsenal hierarchy overruled him and signed Nicolas Pepe who was significantly younger than Zaha. While the £72 million paid to secure the former Lille winger was similar to Zaha’s price tag, the Gunners negotiated a deal that saw the fee paid in installments over a period of five years.
Regarding his talks with Emery, Zaha said:
“I had a conversation with the manager. [Unai] Emery was just like, ‘We don’t really need to go through much’. He said he’d seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that.”
“He was like, ‘Yeah we’d love to have you’ and I was just like, ‘Yeah I’d love to come’. The conversation was rather straightforward because I played against him when he was manager of Arsenal. He saw what I could do, saw my work-rate, and what I could add to the team.”
“Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose and they chose Pepe over me.”
Zaha went on to talk about the enormous value that can be added to a Premier League club when they sign talented players from within the league. He spoke about the fact that clubs know what they are getting when they sign players who are already plying their trade in England. He said:
“You’re seeing a player come from Brazil or another league – they’re always going to attract more attention.”
“But, I just think if there’s a player that plays in the Premier League, you see him week in, week out. You know what he does.”
“I feel like it’s a no-brainer. The other leagues are totally different.”