CRYSTAL PALACE have told would-be new owners: Wilfried Zaha is going nowhere.
Zaha wants a move and has asked Palace to let him join Arsenal.
But chairman Steve Parish fears selling Zaha could wreck his plans of finding new partners who share his long-term vision.
Cash-strapped Arsenal could not meet the asking price of £80m-plus unless they sold Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or another star player.
And even then a deal would be hard to do because Zaha’s future is tied up with the four-way battle to buy into the South London club – despite him pleading to be allowed to leave.
Palace are under no financial pressure to sell the Ivory Coast forward after making a cash profit of £45m, rising to £50m, from the departure of Academy graduate Aaron Wan-Bissaka move to Manchester United.
Wan-Bissaka’s exit only increases Zaha’s importance and value to the club – and to potential investors.
Even if a deal were struck that gave Palace a big windfall – after giving a 25 per cent cut to former club United – it would be very difficult to replace their star man’s goals, assists and all-round influence.
Without Zaha, Roy Hodgson’s squad would look more like relegation candidates than an upwardly-mobile business to those who are considering whether to commit £350m to the transformation of the club.
Buying out wantaway American investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer and other shareholders, plus clearing some debt, would require north of £200m.
The project to build a new Main Stand at Selhurst Park will cost about £100m, with the club’s Academy earmarked for a £30m upgrade.
The player’s desire to leave presents a challenge not only in Parish’s ongoing negotiations with those interested in buying into the club but also to his relationship with Zaha’s agent, Will Salthouse.
The well-connected middleman and his agency, Unique Sports Management, have a strong powerbase at Selhurst Park.
Between them, Salthouse and partners Barry Whelan and Marlon Fleischman represent five first-team players: Zaha, Andros Townsend, Cheikhou Kouyate, Jordan Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp.
It would have been six, including Wan-Bissaka. The full back was previously represented by Jordan Sancho’s agent, Emeka Obasi, but it was Salthouse who did last week’s deal to United.
Photographs taken at United’s training base show Salthouse with Wan-Bissaka and Herve Zaha, one of Wilf’s older brothers and a football consultant for USM.
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Parish and Salthouse are connected away from football, too. According to the latest available Companies House records, they are both shareholders in Dirtybird Restaurants Ltd, a firm which runs a number of chicken shops in London.
Other investors include Brighton striker Glenn Murray, another Salthouse client and a former Palace player.
Selling Zaha could unravel some relationships as well Parish’s plans to take the club to the next level.