Crystal Palace are the fourth Premier League club to be linked with Cheick Doucoure since the summer of 2021.
And, on paper at least, few would give The Eagles much hope of beating Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa to one of the most influential, all-round central midfield players in French football, despite all the progress made under Patrick Vieira this season.
Both Arsenal and Spurs can offer Doucoure regular European football after all. Aston Villa, meanwhile, boast the sort of financial muscle the men from Selhurst Park can only imagine in their wildest fever dreams.
Villa have spent nearly £350 million on new arrivals since returning to the Premier League back in 2019. And that’s without mentioning the marquee loan signing of Philippe Coutinho. Crystal Palace, during the same time frame, have splashed out less than £100 million.
But if Doucoure is to make the trip across the Channel – swapping perennial Ligue 1 overachievers Lens for a new club on UK soil – the smart money should be on Crystal Palace winning the race.
WHICH CLUB WILL CHEICK DOUCOURE JOIN?
According to Goal France, the FA Cup semi-finalists have opened talks with the 22-time Mali international regarding a potential £16 million move to South London.
They are, to put it simply, the only Premier League club currently in negotiations with a player who has been described, by Lens team-mate Seko Fofana, as an ‘incredibly complete’ footballer who can ‘shoot from distance, pass, break the lines, dribble (and) defend’ in equal measure.
Aston Villa made a £10 million all the way back in August 2021. And while an all-action midfield general of Doucoure’s ilk remains Steven Gerrard’s top priority heading into the summer window, one of Ligue 1’s rising stars appears to have slipped down their pecking order.
Arsenal, like Villa, have not been linked with Doucoure for the best part of 12 months either. And while Doucoure was ‘disappointed’ to miss out on a move to Tottenham last year, the subsequent arrival of Rodrigo Bentancur – and the emergence of Oliver Skipp – appears to have slammed that particular door in the Malian’s face.
But you know how the old saying goes. As one door closes, another opens.