Wilfried Zaha enjoyed the most prolific season of his career in 2021/22. Connor Gallagher went from budding young talent to England international, writes the HITC.
Michael Olize dazzled, James McArthur dug in and Tyrick Mitchell drove on.
So the fact that it was Marc Guehi, rather than Zaha, Olise or Gallagher, taking home the Players’ Player of the Year prize at Crystal Palace’s end-of-season awards is testament not only to how he adapted to life at Selhurst Park and the Premier League as a whole, but how valued he is within the depths of The Eagles dressing room.
“He’s a joy to play alongside for sure. He leads by example,” Palace team-mate Joel Ward says of a man who has already captained the club several times at the age of just 21.
“His composure on the ball, his vision, his range of passing… It’s great to see and I think he’s got an extremely bright future.”
Eyebrows were certainly raised last summer when Crystal Palace paid £18 million to liberate Guehi from a lifetime of service in Chelsea’s so-called ‘loan army’.
But, after a terrific maiden campaign in the top-flight, and an England debut to boot, how much would Guehi cost these days? A fee in the region of the £50 million Manchester United stumped up for Aaron Wan-Bissaka at a similar stage in his development surely.
One thing’s for sure, and it’s that Crystal Palace will not give up Guehi without a fight, The Mail revealing Tottenham Hotspur’s interest as Antonio Conte and Fabio Paratici step up their pursuit of a left-sided centre-half.
Regardless of whether Tottenham succeed in luring Guehi away from Crystal Palace – and don’t get your hopes up Spurs fans, there are still five years left on the Ivorian-born stopper’s contract – Thomas Tuchel’s attempts to defend Chelsea’s decision to cash in certainly rang rather hollow at a time in which Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have turned down contract extension at Stamford Bridge.
“(Guehi has undergone a) fantastic development,” Tuchel told Football London in April. “It’s very hard to know if we kept him what would’ve happened.
“Maybe he needed a change, a different club, a bigger role, more minutes to develop his full potential.”
A fair point, maybe. But it’s not as if Chelsea weren’t aware of the situation regarding Rudiger and Christensen. Thiago Silva, meanwhile, turns 38 this year. Azpilicueta; 33.
What’s more, Guehi’s outstanding performances on loan at Swansea City – he was the rock at the heart of arguably the Championship’s best defence – means his seamless adaptation to life in the top-flight will have taken few who watched him closely at the Liberty Stadium by surprise.
In a season in which former Kevin de Bruyne was named the Premier League’s Player of the Year, in which Mo Salah scored 31 goals in all competitions, in which Fikayo Tomori helped AC Milan win their first Serie A title in a decade, Guehi’s eye-catching emergence is yet more proof that a big-spending club like Chelsea don’t always need to look elsewhere for answers.