Hard to say what Wilfried Zaha’s role would have been with England, reveals Gareth Southgate

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Wilfried Zaha

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Hard to say what Wilfried Zaha’s role would have been with England, reveals Gareth Southgate

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SportsCafe Desk

03/28/2022

Ahead of England’s clash with Ivory Coast, Gareth Southgate has revealed that an atmosphere was created because an uncertainty around Wilfried Zaha which saw him switch allegiance. The Crystal Palace star earned two caps for England before being allowed to switch allegiance to Ivory Coast.

While he struggled to find his footing at Manchester United, things have changed for Wilfried Zaha ever since he made the move back to Crystal Palace. It has taken the winger time to adapt and mature but the Ivory Coast international has now become a key star for the Eagles. Not only that, it has seen him thrive for the Elephants, contributing to 10 goals in his 21 caps so far. However, Zaha does also have two England caps to his name, making his debut as a 20-year-old.

But the now 29-year-old struggled to add to that over the years and it saw him eventually switch allegiance, with FIFA’s permission, to Ivory Coast in 2017. It hasn’t affected the Three Lions all that much but it has changed Ivory Coast with the Elephants doing well since Zaha has joined them. But in light of questions being asked, Gareth Southgate admitted that there was an atmosphere created because of an uncertainty around Zaha as well as because of questions being asked about his passion.

“I remember being asked at the time and we were asked about a few different cases and I said players have to have the desire to play for England. That was slightly tweaked a bit I would say so that created a little bit of an atmosphere with Wilf and Steve Parish for a while,” Southgate said, reported Goal.

“That wasn’t an insinuation on Wilf - you couldn’t have a more passionate player as anyone who follows Crystal Palace knows. For those who play for the U21s, it's always great to see them go on and have a great career.

“It's hard to say what his role might have been with us. Raheem [Sterling] has been a key part of our team for a long period, Jesse Lingard had done a fabulous job and at the start we had Adam Lallana, who was our player of the year for the first 18 months or so. He's a talent, Wilf has been a massive part of Palace's ability to have stayed in the league and now the progress they’re making,” he added.

The England boss, who is also a former Crystal Palace captain, went on to reveal that Zaha was a brilliant player with the U21s but struggled because of his time at Manchester United. The Ivory Coast star endured a tough time with the Red Devils, eventually re-signing for Crystal Palace, and Southgate revealed that it played into their selection thoughts. Not only that, he added that the team was built and they didn’t want to shake the tree by bringing in too many new faces.

“Wilf is a very good player and when we had him with the U21s he was in the middle of a very difficult spell both with Manchester United and then on loan with Cardiff. There was a period when we didn’t then take him. We had him after he had already made his senior debut, so it is always more difficult for the players," he stated.

“Roy had players who were ahead of him for a long period and then we had four games as caretaker where we were quite settled with experienced players and we didn’t want to bring too many new players in at that point."

“I remember going to a hotel, Palace were playing away, and meeting with Wilf but at that point, he had made his mind up. I can understand it because he had been four years without playing."

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