Eberechi Eze: Crystal Palace new boy tipped to shine in the Premier League
Premier League side Crystal Palace completed the signing of Eberechi Eze on Friday from Queen's Park Rangers in a deal that could rise up to 20 million pounds. The highly rated forward has signed a five year contract at Selhurst Park.
With a dazzling display for QPR last season it was a matter of time the Greenwich born starlet would be scooped up by a Premier League club and Crystal Palace saw off tough competition from Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United to sign him.
The player's willingness to stay in London tilted the balance in favour of Palace and Eze has expressed his immense pleasure to sign for a club where he will be guaranteed first team football.
The former Wycombe player was quoted as saying, "As a football club, I feel like there are great players here and it's a brilliant opportunity for me to come and be with these players, to link up with them and to really push on."
Of Nigerian descent, Eze has been capped three times by the England U-21 set up and Gareth Southgate, the England senior team manager, would be keeping a close watch on an extremely talented young player as the Three Lions prepare for next year's European Championships.
Most importantly, the 22 year old has the chance to be coached by a seasoned campaigner Roy Hodgson who has made the player the most expensive signing of his time at Palace. The experienced former England head coach has bought Eze to give more teeth to a forward line that had struggled throughout the last season.
The Eagles will go into the season as relegation contenders yet Hodgson has set his eyes firmly on the future of a Palace side that is predictably lacking confidence to win back a somewhat frustrated fan base.
That frustration has come about due to the lack of clarity on star player Wilfried Zaha's future in South London. While the club has maintained Zaha will not be sold, yet, if rumours are to be believed big European clubs are lining up lucrative deals for the Ivory Coast international.
Time will say whether the signing of Eze is an indication that Crystal Palace is preparing for life without Wilfried Zaha or the London club is reducing the work load on the latter's shoulders to motivate him to stay at Selhurst Park for the upcoming season and form a deadly partnership upfront.
Eze is such highly rated that his previous employers QPR tried all out to keep the player at Loftus Road and in fact Palace previously had two bids in the range of £8 million and £12 million respectively rejected, with Rangers manager Mark Warburton making clear his previously prized asset would only leave if the club's £20 million valuation was met.
The deal which was ultimately settled upon between the Championship club and the Premier League club is for £16 million up front with £4 million in potential add-ons.
Queen's Park Rangers director of football Les Ferdinand told Sky Sports UK, "You never want to lose one of your best players but the situation dictates that it's necessary so that we can, ultimately, grow and progress. I have no doubts Ebere will go on to enjoy a fantastic career in the game at the very top level." The club has rightly made the best deal out of their former prime player.
While players take time to make the tough step up from the Championship to the Premier League, as far as Eze is concerned this might not be the case given his immense talent on the pitch. Crystal Palace has signed a player whose agility, physical endurance and skill could make the ultimate difference between staying up in the Premier League and getting relegated to the Championship.
Furthermore the club is banking on its traditional faith on the fine young talents across England and a fine academy production line.
"Eberechi is a player whose development we have followed closely," said Palace chairman Steve Parish.
"We are delighted he has chosen to sign for us over the other clubs that were interested and we feel that this is the right club for him to continue his development. With our academy recently securing category 1 status, this further illustrates our focus on youth as we look to consolidate and improve upon our position as a Premier League club," Parish continued.
Palace's new signing provides manager Hodgson another vital option up front if he is able to persuade Zaha to stay at the club for another season. The Eagles ended last season with a dismal run of form that saw them go on a seven match losing streak before drawing with Tottenham on the final day of a surreal campaign.
Creativity is what the club badly needs at the moment and Hodgson will try to utilise his new signing's pace and dribbling ability on both the flanks to give a timely boost to his attacking department that lacked the flair and creativity last term even with Zaha at the helm.
Crystal Palace fans would certainly be thrilled to see both Eze and Zaha operate in the same formation but even if the latter is to leave by the end of the summer transfer window the club has bought an ideal replacement by the look of things.
In his four year stay at QPR (that included a loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers), the 5 ft 8 inch attacking midfielder scored 20 goals in 104 appearances but his stock rose further last season as he netted 14 times and provided 8 assists in 48 games amidst other fine displays to help Warburton steer the club to Championship safety.
Some of his goals bear the hallmark of a certain Thierry Henry as he approached the goal from the left flank playing for QPR and then leaning back calmly to put the ball past the opposition keepers . He loves to cut inside onto his stronger right foot.
The player's composure on the ball and sheer ability to pick out teammates with accurate passes in the Championship will certainly be an added weapon in the Premier League where the player would need to learn to pass the ball at a quicker rate. While Eze plays as an attacking midfielder down both the flanks, it's his additional ability to operate in a more central role as a forward that gives Palace plenty of options on the attacking front.
It remains to be seen whether the wise old Hodgson would straight away put Eze in the middle of the storm on September 12 when Crystal Palace host Southampton in the Premier League opener, or make him accustomed to the feisty nature of the league by giving him fewer minutes on the pitch later on in the game.
Featured image credits: Goal.com
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