BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Ebere Eze became Crystal Palace’s second summer signing today – four years after being released by Millwall.
The 22-year-old playmaker drew interest from Premier League new boys Fulham and West Bromwich Albion.
But Eze’s preference was always on a move to Selhurst Park. He underwent his medical this week after the Eagles agreed a deal with QPR.
The England U21 international has signed a five-year contract.
Eze has been one of the outstanding attacking talents in the Championship. He has scored 20 goals in 112 appearances for Rangers, who picked the Greenwich-born player up after he was let go by the Lions.
He predominantly played in a number 10 role for the west London club but is more likely to take on a wide role at Palace.
It means that the Eagles have now snapped up two of the outstanding young players in the Championship in this window with right-back Nathan Ferguson, 19, arriving from West Brom.
Palace are also keen on a loan deal for Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher, 20, who made a huge impression on loan for Charlton and Swansea in the 2019-20 campaign.
Before now the Eagles have often added proven Premier League players but a different strategy seems to be in play this time around as they look to lower the average age of their squad.
Eze has previously described being let go by Millwall as a shock.
“You could see in training and in matches that I wasn’t their typical type of player,” he told talkSPORT in April 2019. “When I got released by Millwall, I understood the decision. I get why Neil [Harris] made that call.
“I thought I’d probably get another year there, even though it didn’t look like there was much chance of me getting near the first team.
“It took me by surprise, but ultimately it was a blessing in disguise.”
Harris has since moved on to take charge at Cardiff City.
His Den successor Gary Rowett said: “People always look at things like this and say that he was in our academy and perhaps we let him go – but you can never judge unless you are there and understand the situation at the time.
“He is a talented player who has developed really, really well. You can see he beats players one-v-one in tight areas and that’s always what Premier League clubs look at – because it can help in tight games.
“He has got athleticism and has scored goals.
“In the Championship he is a player who is very, very difficult to stop doing what he wants. The Premier League is a different beast that will test him in many different ways. Good luck to him. He’s got all the attributes and is a young player – but he’ll have to learn quickly to impact at that level.”
Charlton new boy Conor Washington was on QPR’s books when Eze first arrived.
“He was a player I couldn’t believe we had,” said the Northern Ireland international. “He came into training the first day and you couldn’t believe how good he was – absolutely ridiculous.
“He had everything – left foot and right foot. He is not overly quick off the mark but the way he glides past people is scary. That QPR team had some enormous names in it but we couldn’t believe he had been released by Millwall.
“He went on loan [to Wycombe] and was scoring goals, his highlights were ridiculous. He was doing some crazy stuff. He needed to be able to effect games for longer periods and he was doing that last season. There is no reason he can’t go on and do that in a top league.
“I’ve got 100 per cent confidence in him. He’s got an unbelievable mindset as well.
“You’ve seen from the games that he is never afraid with the ball – he’s always ready to take a risk, which is a dying art. I’m looking forward to seeing how well he does.”
Eze could make his first appearance for Palace in Saturday’s friendly against Charlton at Selhurst Park.
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