International

Southgate to tempt Zaha back to England

2016-12-05 15:47
Wilfried Zaha (Getty Images)

Cape Town - England coach Gareth Southgate wants to convince Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha to reconsider his Three Lions future - less than a week after the attacker completed his nationality switch to represent the Cote d’Ivoire.

The 24-year-old represented England twice in 2012 and 2013, but having not made his competitive debut, he remains eligible to feature for the Cote d’Ivoire, the land of his birth.

With the Africa Cup of Nations fast approaching, the Elephants opted to recruit the former Manchester United man, and after months of negotiations between Federation Ivoirienne de Football president Sidi Augustin Diallo, coach Michel Dussuyer, Zaha’s agent and family.

However, their hopes of using Zaha at the Nations Cup in Gabon next month, where they will look to defend their continental crown, appear to be at risk after Southgate made a plea to the forward to reconsider his international future.

"I cannot assess that until I speak with him. I would like to speak to him before we make a decision and happy to make that happen," Southgate told journalists at the weekend, after watching Zaha in action in Palace’s victory over Southampton, having been asked about the chances of the attacker reconsidering his decision.

"We are still first and foremost hopeful that we can speak to Wilf," the newly installed English boss added. "He’s a player I’ve obviously worked with. At the time, I had him with the Under-21s. First few months he played very well for us then he had a difficult period for [Manchester United]. [He had] a loan spell at Cardiff that didn’t go so well.

"At the stage we had players like Tom Ince, who was performing better in the Championship out wide for us so he dipped out of that group," Southgate continued. "Then obviously over the last couple of years, with respect no one was questioning him not being in our [Euro 2016] squad that summer.

"But he has played very well this season, I saw him at Everton where he played okay," the 46-year-old continued, "He played well at Burnley where in the second half I thought he was excellent."

Despite a troubled season for Palace, who lost six games in a row before beating Saints 3-0 at the weekend, Zaha has emerged as one of the Londoners’ key players, having scored two goals and contributed five assists in 13 appearances so far this term.

Victory over Southampton eases the pressure on under-fire boss Alan Pardew, and carries Palace up to 13th in the table, three points clear of the bottom three.

"I had a conversation with Pardew about him that week leading up to that game," Southgate continued in quotes relayed by the Telegraph. "I had a conversation with Steve Parish about him at half-time during that game. He is someone who I said to Alan I am aware of.

"I only had a few days to make a decision [on the squad for Scotland and Spain games in November] and I had a squad that had done pretty well in October and I wanted to build on that. We had Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling coming into that.

"But [Zaha] is certainly someone who has talent, is in a good moment with his club, and ideally I’d like to talk to him before he makes that decision final."

Should England succeed in convincing Zaha to return to the fold, the loss of the uncapped wideman could come as a severe blow to the Ivorians, with the attacker ostensibly representing an ideal replacement for injured wideman Gervinho, who will miss the Nations Cup.

While Salomon Kalou continued his recent revival with a goal for Hertha Berlin at the weekend, it remains to be seen whether the former Chelsea man and Bournemouth’s Max Gradel can fire the Ivorians to a successful title defence.

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