Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha has spoken about his tryst with Arsenal and how close he came to joining the Gunners in 2019.
Zaha, who is a diehard fan of Arsenal since his childhood, was targeted by then-club manager Unai Emery.
The winger confirmed that he once sat down with the current Villarreal boss about a potential switch to the Emirates Stadium, but it never panned out.
Crystal Palace was reluctant to part ways with its top star and stood firm on its £80 million ($108.5 million) valuation of the player, which was well beyond Arsenal’s budget at that time.
The North London-based outfit went on to sign Nicolas Pepe from Lille for a club-record £72 million ($97.6 million) only after negotiating a minimal upfront fee.
“I had a conversation with the manager,” Zaha told on Jamie Carragher’s “The Greatest Game “podcast, as quoted by the Evening Standard. “[Unai] Emery was just like, ‘We don’t really need to go through much’. He said he’d seen me play, he knows I can change games at any time and stuff like that.”
“He was like, ‘Yeah we’d love to have you’ and I was just like, ‘Yeah I’d love to come’. The conversation was rather straightforward because I played against him when he was manager of Arsenal,” he added. “He saw what I could do, saw my work-rate, and what I could add to the team.”
Zaha, who is enjoying the best form of his career, looks to have made peace with Arsenal choosing his national team colleague over him.
The 28-year-old has scored eight goals and hauled two assists in 15 outings this season, while the Gunners’ record signing has been underwhelming in his bid to make an impact.
“Obviously, it was up to the club who they chose. And they chose Pepe over me,” Zaha stated.
The Ivory Coast national’s outstanding performance has seen him continue to attract interest not only from clubs in England but also from European giants who are looking to add some firepower going into the second half of the campaign.
According to TalkSPORT, reigning French league champion Paris Saint-Germain and Italian powerhouse AC Milan are pondering a move for the former Manchester United star.
However, the report claims that neither is likely to be able to match the hefty release clause that Crystal Palace has placed, especially after Zaha committed to a new long-term contract following his failed move to Arsenal.
Arsenal News: Free-Scoring Winger Confirms Gunners Talks Prior To Transfer Breakdown The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ International Business Times.