New Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has been linked with a return to former club Nice for highly-rated defender Youcef Atal.
What’s the story?
According to reports from The Guardian (as reported by French outlet News in 24), Vieira is reportedly keen for a reunion with the 25-year-old right-back this summer as he continues to strengthen his first team squad.
Atal established himself as a regular in Nice’s starting XI after Vieira signed him for the Ligue 1 outfit back in 2018, and he could follow the French tactician to Selhurst Park over the coming weeks.
Should Palace sign Youcef Atal?
Imagine him and Wilfried Zaha
Palace have made an impressive start to their summer transfer business, bringing in numerous exciting young signings such as Joachim Andersen, Marc Guehi and Michael Olise.
However, with many experienced campaigners also departing on free transfers, Vieira still needs to bring in several fresh faces ahead of the upcoming campaign.
One of those to leave Palace after the expiration of his contract was Nathaniel Clyne. The former Liverpool defender’s exit has left a gap on the right-hand side of the Palace defence and Atal could be the ideal candidate to fill it.
As per WhoScored, the Nice defender recorded 1.4 interceptions, delivered 0.4 crosses and completed 1.1 dribbles per league game last season, showcasing his ability in both the defensive and attacking thirds of the pitch.
Although Wilfried Zaha has spent the majority of his time either on the left wing or up front over the last couple of campaigns, Christian Benteke’s return to form, the emergence of Eberechi Eze and departure of Andros Townsend may force the Eagles talisman back to the opposite flank.
If so, it could lead to the Ivory Coast international striking up a formidable partnership on the right-hand side, should Atal make the switch to south London.
The £13.5m-rated full-back loves to bomb forward, supporting his team’s attacks, an aspect where current options Joel Ward and Martin Kelly do not excel – the former conjured just one assist and 0.3 key passes per game from 26 top-flight appearances last term, while the latter has set up one goal over the past four seasons and has never exceeded a match average of 0.3 key passes for the club.
Therefore, chairman Steve Parish must swoop for Atal this summer, reuniting Vieira with a player he clearly trusts and admires from his days in charge of Nice.