Belfast Telegraph

Wilfried Zaha met with Gareth Southgate but remains committed to Ivory Coast

Gareth Southgate held talks with Wilfried Zaha earlier in December in a bit to keep the Crystal Palace winger committed to England, Press Association Sport understands.

Zaha, 24, has two senior England caps to his name but both came in friendly matches - meaning he was eligible to switch his international allegiance to Ivory Coast, the country of his birth.

He has since been named in the Ivory Coast squad for the forthcoming African Nations Cup, which begins on January 14.

Southgate spoke at his official unveiling following his permanent appointment to the England post about his wish to convince the former Manchester United man to stick with the Three Lions.

It is understood Southgate met with Zaha to explain he had been monitoring his progress, despite not being included in either of the two squads he named during his interim tenure, and would prefer he remain available for selection for England.

Despite that, it is also believed Southgate offered Zaha no assurances over future selection with the player subsequently sticking by his decision to revert to representing Ivory Coast.

Southgate worked closely with Zaha during his reign as Under-21s boss and he went on to be capped in two senior friendlies under Roy Hodgson.

Speaking on December 1, Southgate said of Zaha: "We are still first and foremost hopeful that we can speak to Wilf.

"He's a player I've obviously worked with. At the time, I had him with the Under-21s. The first few months he played very well for us...then he had a difficult period for his club.

"He had a loan spell at Cardiff that didn't go so well and at the stage we had players like Tom Ince, who was performing better in the Championship out wide for us, so he dipped out of that group.

"Then obviously over the last couple of years, with respect, no-one was questioning him not being in our squad last summer (at the European Championships)."

But, having seemingly rejected Southgate's advances, the player will now form part of Michel Dussuyer's Ivory Coast squad for the African Nations, and could make his bow for the Elephants in a friendly against Sweden on January 8.

He is joined in the squad by four fellow Premier League players in Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, Lamine Kone of Sunderland, Bournemouth's Max Gradel and Stoke loanee Wilfried Bony.

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