Crystal Palace may not have made as many new signings as their fans were demanding in recent transfer windows, but when it comes to re-signings, nobody has any complaints.
The news Eberechi Eze has agreed a new contract – confirmed earlier today – follows on from Michael Olise committing his future to the club with a new four-year deal in the summer, and the recent extensions signed by Sam Johnstone and Jordan Ayew. All four are key members of the Palace team, and Eze and Olise are among the most highly-rated players in the Premier League.
Getting a deal done with Eze is a major coup for the club.
One benefit, more indirectly, is that the 25-year-old staying at Selhurst Park could help persuade a) others to do the same, and b) potential new signings to join Palace. But most importantly, it banishes any lingering doubt over his immediate future, which had been in doubt given he had only 20 months remaining on his previous contract.
Having Eze committed long-term hands back a measure of control to Palace when it comes to dealing with his suitors. Manchester City were among those interested in the England international last summer but Palace successfully fought off any advances, with the treble winners preferring Matheus Nunes from Wolves in any case — and eventually signing him.
But with every month that passed, with that new contract remaining unsigned, Eze’s value dropped slightly.
Had he entered the final year of his previous deal next summer, Palace would have been left exposed and facing an awkward conundrum: sell him, with clubs knowing that if he didn’t leave in that transfer window, he would be available for nothing at the end of the 2024-25 season, or keep hold of him to get the most out of him on the pitch and maintain some hope that he will decide to re-sign. That would have come down to their appetite for risk.
Wilfried Zaha’s departure on a free for Galatasaray of Turkey in the summer after his deal expired will have been a consideration. Palace would have been keen to avoid a repeat of that situation, where selling long-time talisman Zaha amid interest from big clubs, particularly from Arsenal, might have been the better decision financially.
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But that is also a crucial point to consider about Eze’s new deal — which runs for three and a half years but does not necessarily guarantee he will be at Palace beyond summer 2024 or the following one. The club will still have to make difficult decisions about when to sell their best players, in order to reinvest the money and to turn a profit. The key to that will be to ensure the team is not significantly weakened as a result of the departures.
This season has demonstrated the importance of Eze, and Olise, to Palace’s attacking threat.
Although they are 11th with 15 points from 11 games, these early months have not been without their challenges. Only four of the division’s other 19 sides have scored fewer than their 10 goals, and three of those are in the relegation places. Palace also only scored once in the three games they played last month while Eze was out with a hamstring injury.
His return as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 victory away to Burnley last weekend was welcome, and he will surely start at home against Everton on Saturday.
This is a player entering his peak years. That makes him valuable on the pitch, but also as an asset to be sold at the right time. Although there has been no suggestion of Eze actively seeking a transfer, he will have ambitions to play at the highest level in club football. Unless Palace find a way to qualify for Europe, that will have to happen elsewhere.
Having been largely overlooked by Patrick Vieira during his near two-year spell in charge, primarily because he was returning from injury, Eze was resurgent under replacement Roy Hodgson late last season as Palace won five of their final 10 games to fend off relegation worries, and player and manager enjoy an excellent relationship.
Even if Hodgson is not Palace boss beyond his own contract’s expiration at the end of this season, by which time he’ll be almost 77 years old, that will probably have played a role in convincing Eze to stay at the south London club.
“Roy is an incredible communicator,” Eze told The Athletic in April. “In the questions he asks and the way he listens, it’s all to help us be the best we can be and improve. I feel like it works and it gets the best out of all the people he works with, so it is a huge privilege to work with him.”
It is difficult to see how, after rupturing an Achilles tendon in May 2021 and missing almost the whole first half of the following season as a result, before finding himself not playing a major role, this deal would have been reached during Vieira’s tenure.
That mutual respect with Hodgson, which helped Eze to thrive and, finally, make his international debut with England this summer, is obvious in the affectionate way the manager speaks about him — a contrast to Vieira’s tough-love approach.
“As far as I’m concerned, that (Eze’s existing deal) will take care of the next two years at least,” Hodgson said in August. “If the club want to speak to him about extending it, I’d say, ‘What a good idea, go ahead’. A lot might depend, like with all players of that quality, about how they see the future of the club. We’re fortunate that Olise has seen fit to give us a long-term commitment, and I would be more than happy if Eberechi would do the same thing.”
Persuading Eze and Olise in particular to agree new terms suggests they both believe Palace have a plan in place for the future.
Eze is the poster child for that change in recruitment strategy for the club.
They plucked him from the second-tier Championship, where he had impressed with fellow London side Queens Park Rangers, and developed him into an England international now starring in front of a global audience in the Premier League. Having rebuilt his confidence, convincing him that staying at Selhurst Park, for now at least, is in his best interests bodes well.
If the player who kickstarted a new approach to transfers has been an unequivocal success and believes a new deal is right for him, it should help persuade others that Palace are a club where they can further their own careers.
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(Top photo: George Wood/Getty Images)