Palace land their own coup as Davids signs up for a new challenge
Crystal Palace came out of administration yesterday, and immediately signed the veteran Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids.
Negotiations were delayed after Davids got lost en route to their Beckenham training ground but by mid-afternoon he agreed a pay-as-you-play deal.
Davids, who will be at Selhurst Park today to watch the Championship match with Ipswich Town, said: "It's an exciting time for the club, and it is an exciting time for me. I just want to enjoy football and show what I can do. I'm sharp and fit. I've been training with Ajax the last few weeks.
"The Championship is one of the strongest leagues in the world, stronger than its equivalents in Italy and Spain. It's really, really physical, so it's going to be a big challenge for me and I'm not going to underestimate it."
Somewhat improbably Davids said his excitement was in part due to his teenage memories of Ian Wright and Mark Bright's Palace striking partnership. That he still has a house in London from his time at Tottenham was also a factor in his signing.
"George [Burley, the Palace manager] said just to have fun, give it your all and see what it leads to. I can play left-back, midfield, left or right wing – it's up to where the team needs me."
Burley said: "It's not going to be a financial thing for him, it's the challenge. I don't know how fit he is but he has been training with Ajax and he looks fit. There's no doubt about his quality, and for the younger players to train and play with someone like him will be great."
Davids' ability is not in question. He won 74 caps for the Netherlands, played in four Champions League finals (winning once, with Ajax) and was for a decade one of the most respected midfielders in Europe. However, he is now 37, and last played competitive football, with Ajax, in May 2008. He has been training not with the Ajax first team, but at De Toekomst, the club's academy, with one of the junior teams coached by the former Nottingham Forest winger, Bryan Roy.
He certainly has a wider perspective than his youngerteam-mates are likely to. He took time out earlier this month to play a tournament in Kuwait (where, though a non-Muslim, he observed Ramadan out of respect for his hosts), and he retweets Barack Obama on his twitter account.
He has played in England, from 2005-07, with a degree of success for Spurs. His other clubs are Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Internazionale.
His signing is thus quite a statement for a club which had been in administration since January, at times failed to pay the wages last year, been under a transfer embargo for more than a year, and survived relegation to the third tier on the final day of last season. A locally-based consortium, CPFC 2010, has subsequently bought both club and ground, uniting them for the first time since Ron Noades sold the club, but not Selhurst Park, to Mark Goldberg in 1997.
The presence in the Championship of Davids, and at Cardiff and Bristol City, Craig Bellamy and David James, is something of a throwback to the days when leading players often wound down their careers by dropping down the divisions.
For a variety of reasons players of the stature of Bobby Moore, George Best, Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush, Paul Gascoigne and Ian Wright all graced the second tier, or below, and not because they were moving into management. Some lasted longer than others. Palace will hope Davids emulates Keegan's impact at Newcastle, not Rush's 18-match goalless sojourn at Wrexham.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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