Wilfried Zaha has admitted his head was “all over the place” after his dream £80 million move to Arsenal collapsed in the summer.
Crystal Palace’s matchwinner believed he was on the way to the Emirates in a life-changing deal until the Gunners refused to meet the asking price and signed £72m Nicolas Pepe instead.
And when Everton had two late bids for Zaha rejected before the transfer deadline, because they fell way short of Palace’s valuation, the Ivory Coast winger was stranded in south London.
On international duty with his native country, Zaha has lifted the lid on his limbo – the security of bring tethered to a five-year contract worth £130,000-a-week, with no release clause at Palace, offset by a desire to test himself in the Champions League.
Speaking to BBC Africa, he said: “Obviously my head was a bit all over the place at the beginning of the season, but I had to nail down and just get on with it because the team deserved that.
“I had to put my head down and play my football. I would have been hindering my own progress by moaning and not wanting to perform properly.
“I have too much respect for my manager, the fans and my team-mates to treat them that way. It was a thing where, ‘OK, this hasn’t happened, but I’ve got to get on with it.’
“I’ve got to prove every time that I’m the top player I claim to be, so I had to get over it quickly.”
Zaha stopped short of pledging his long-term future to the Eagles, but their flying start – sixth in the Premier League after eight games – has been of some comfort.
He added: “I’m seeing how it goes. I’m a Crystal Palace player and I’m just trying to perform to the best of my ability for the club.
“The season’s gone well for us. We’ve got a lot more in us and everyone’s happy with where we are right now.
“Last season I set myself a target of 10 goals and I managed to get 10, so I was happy. Hopefully I can reach my goals again – that’s all that is on my mind.”
Earlier this week, Zaha won a gong at the Best of Africa Awards for his charity work, which includes giving 10 per cent of his wages to good causes including his sister’s orphanage, Tamara’s Hope.