Wilfried Zaha can be proud of his time at Crystal Palace, says Patrick Vieira

The Eagles attacker appears to be at his happiest for a long time at Selhurst Park.

George Sessions
Saturday 02 October 2021 10:00
Patrick Vieira feels Wilfried Zaha will full realise his achievements at Crystal Palace when he retires (John Walton/PA)
Patrick Vieira feels Wilfried Zaha will full realise his achievements at Crystal Palace when he retires (John Walton/PA)

Patrick Vieira feels Wilfried Zaha will only fully appreciate how special his achievements at Crystal Palace have been once his playing career is over.

The Ivory Coast international moved to within one goal of 50 in the Premier League for the Eagles when he struck in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton.

Another goal for the Palace academy graduate against Leicester on Sunday will make him the first player in the club’s history to find the net on 50 occasions in the top flight.

Zaha, who has made 400 appearances for the south Londoners, has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Selhurst Park but looks to be at his happiest and relishing a new lease of life under his new manager.

Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion – Premier League – Selhurst ParkCrystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha is in good form (John Walton/PA)

Vieira said: “I think this is something that I am sure he will be proud of after his career. When you become a top player and a respected player in a football club, it is something that makes you proud about yourself.

“Wilfried has a really good and strong relationship with the football club and the fans. The fans love him and he loves the fans.

“He loves being at this football club. I think he will realise how important it is when the career is finished. This is when you will realise what you have been doing for a football club and how special it is.”

Zaha will line up to face Leicester on Sunday but Vieira could make further adjustments to his front three having handed Odsonne Edouard a full debut against Brighton.

Jordan Ayew was guilty of missing an excellent chance to wrap up the points on Monday, firing wide with only Robert Sanchez to beat to extend his run without a goal to 35 games.

Michael Olise, who joined from Reading, is pressing for a start for Palace (Adam Davy/PA)

If Ayew is taken out of the XI, summer signing Michael Olise could be given a full debut and Vieira says the teenager from Reading is ready for the Premier League after cameos in matches with Tottenham and Liverpool.

Vieira added: “What is really interesting with Michael is he can play in different positions. When he came on at Liverpool, he was a number 10 and was quite good. He can also play on the right-hand side and come in with his left foot.

“He needed time to adapt to a new club and time to adapt to the tempo and physicality of the Premier League but he is ready. He will get more and more involved through the season and is ready to challenge the front players.”

Olise missed the first month of the campaign with a back injury but his return in September helped provide more options for Vieira, who has yet to give a debut to Will Hughes since the ex-Watford midfielder joined due to the competition for places.

Patrick Vieira has options (Peter Byrne/PA)

When playmaker Ebere Eze recovers from his Achilles injury later in the year, the Palace manager will have to contend with another player being left out of the starting team but the 45-year-old pointed out that is the kind of situation you want at a football club.

“I think what players want is the manager to be fair about the decision I will make and I will try to make the best decision I can,” Vieira insisted.

“It will be important for those players to respect my decision. They may not accept it because players want to play all the time but they have to respect it. This is the way it will be.

“I think with the new players who come in and the direction this football club is taking, we will have those kind of problems and that is a good problem.”