Manchester United are set to pay £10 million up front for the eye-catching innovation of Ivorian Wilfried Zaha, with a further £5 million added to the deal dependent on the 20-year old’s success at the club.
Ignoring the unavoidable fairness of the deal, which could prove to have a decisively positive effect on the remainder of The Eagles season, I remain skeptical of the hopes the Palace wonderkid has for his future in Manchester.
Watching Zaha develop over the past few years has lit up a regularly frustrating couple of seasons at Selhurst. The way he glides across the pitch with inexcusably unorthodox silkiness renders some of the most competent defenders foolish. I don’t argue that he still has a lot to learn, but the potential of this almost untapped talent is exhilarating.
The bone I have to pick revolves around the incredibly harsh process of youth development for lower league teams. Why would so many teams invest in youth development when they reap so little reward in the long run?
I saw a 15-year John Bostock amaze on his debut against Watford. Wayne Routledge was inspirational for Palace in the Premier League in 2005. Both these young talents were snapped up, and spat out by Tottenham Hotspur. It’s great to see Routledge producing some of the form he’s capable of for Swansea, but Bostock’s exciting career seems to be at an end before it even begun.
What’s the point in these smaller time clubs investing money in youth systems that don’t produce warranted rewards. I know Palace are getting £15 million for Zaha, but the big money he may eventually make, the benefits and brilliance he might eventually produce is going to be for the club that already has it.
It might sound like an unnecessary rant, but isn’t all too predictable? Manchester United and the top four hold practically all the valuable young English talent.
I don’t see English footballs rebirth coming any time soon if every prodigy produced on home soil is exclusively located at the select few. We need the kind of commitment that has allowed Spain to prosper. A unified ambition that passionately promotes youth progression at every stage and level. Not the financial football where any rare talent is snapped up and chucked in at the deep end to sink or swim.