Michael Olise's sale is a blow for Crystal Palace – but it doesn't have to be a disaster

The chant from the home end might ordinarily have stung Crystal Palace supporters. “You’ll never see him again,” sang the Wolverhampton Wanderers fans at Molineux on the season’s penultimate weekend, moments after Michael Olise had just been clattered by an opposing defender.

It was more mischievous than malicious and the taunt did not really register with Palace’s away contingent. They were too busy enjoying another victory – one of five in their last six matches – and seeing their front three, including Olise, thriving.

Finally, there was a response: “He’s just too good for you.” This was a song that had once been reserved for Wilfried Zaha, whose departure last summer on a free transfer to Galatasaray stung a bit less knowing Olise and Eberechi Eze remained.

No Palace fan wanted to contemplate the possibility of losing Olise. The hope had been that this summer would have been one of building, knowing that a side transformed under Oliver Glasner could target European qualification next season. Memories of relegation fears flaring during the winter and the drab performances in the first half of the campaign had long since faded.

But you’ve probably heard all of this before: Palace doing well, optimism around the future and then… one of the club’s best players leaves. Sure enough, on Friday, The Athletic revealed Olise has agreed terms with Bayern Munich and is set to depart after three seasons where he thrived, amused, amazed, and left opposition defences bewildered and baffled.



What makes Michael Olise so special?

Palace fans never truly saw the best of him and yet he will become the best player to have ever played for the club if he achieves his potential. That is how good he is.

We have been here before. In January 2010, Victor Moses left for Wigan Athletic for just £2.5million ($3.2m), with Palace in administration. Like Olise, Moses had brought something special, only for that to be taken away all too soon.

Palace fans of an older vintage are still haunted by the memory of Ian Wright’s exit for Arsenal, just months after the club secured its best league finish, in 1991. Rather than kicking on, that team – minus Wright – slowly slipped back and were relegated two years later.

More recently, there was Zaha leaving for Manchester United in January 2013, although that blow was softened by an initial £10million fee, which felt like fair value, and a loan back for the remainder of the season helped secure promotion to the Premier League.

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Wilfried Zaha’s exit to Manchester United in 2013 was painful for Palace fans (Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)

Yannick Bolasie’s £25m move to Everton in August 2016 was hard to stomach, while Andrew Johnson’s move to the same club 10 years previously for £8.6m was similarly painful after Palace’s relegation from the Premier League a year earlier.

Those two deals, however, were record sales for Palace. Olise will be the latest, with a release clause in the region of £60m, although Palace will not receive all of that money due to a sell-on clause for Olise’s former club Reading. But the financial reward for the club does not make up for depriving fans of watching their most talented players.

It hurts more because these departures have not been that common for Palace in the past 13 years of Premier League football. The fact Olise is an attacking player, capable of getting fans off their seats, also helps explain why it hurts.

But maybe this is just what Palace fans have to accept. Chairman Steve Parish and Dougie Freedman, the sporting director, have long espoused a model of buying young talent, developing them and selling on for a significant profit. It is a sensible one and top players will eventually outgrow Palace, but that does not mean fans shouldn’t feel sore about it.

It is also a difficult model to pull off. Olise’s departure will leave Palace weaker. His 10 goals and six assists last season do not tell the story of his true impact: when he played, Palace looked a side capable of playing in Europe; when he didn’t, they tended to struggle. 

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Olise scores Palace’s fourth goal against Manchester United (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Replacing him will not be easy. Palace are set to sign the 27-year-old Daichi Kamada on a free transfer when his Lazio contract expires this summer and he will go some way to being Olise’s replacement in one of the two No 10 roles. Kamada’s familiarity with Glasner – the pair worked together at Eintracht Frankfurt over two seasons – will help him settle, but it will still take time to integrate.

Olise’s departure may make it more difficult to persuade Eberechi Eze, one of his close friends, and Marc Guehi, in particular, to stay. The signings they intend to make this summer may be able to convince them to remain.

While there is no way to dress this up as a positive, it does provide Palace with more money to spend. In buying Chadi Riad from Real Betis for a fee in the region of £15m and with Kamada due to arrive imminently, they have begun their summer business positively.

Selling Olise may also help attract new players, with Palace able to point to the Frenchman’s example as proof that excellent young footballers can come to Selhurst Park, succeed in a strong environment, and then move on to something better at the right time. Olise’s move to one of the world’s biggest clubs shows it is not just a sales pitch.

Inevitably, there will be a period of adaptation now. The partnership struck up by the front three of Eze, Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta propelled Palace to a 10th-place finish and was crucial in the final seven games.

Glasner has shown that he is very much about the team and does not place significant emphasis on individuals. Olise’s departure will test that approach but should mean it is easier to cope without him.

Losing Olise is a bitter blow, but it does not have to be the end of Palace’s ambitions.

(Top photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

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