Why Michael Olise is attracting the heavy-hitters

With Europe’s top leagues winding down and the summer transfer window set to open in less than a month, football’s silly season is truly upon us.

The big clubs — in their bids to enhance, rebuild, rejuvenate, or complete their squads — are looking largely at two categories of players: the bona fide superstar who may be prised away from another heavy-hitter in one fashion or the other; and the potential superstar of tomorrow who has shown signs of breaking out but may still offer good value for money.

Kylian Mbappe is the most prominent example of the first category, with the French sensation announcing that he will leave Paris St. Germain as a free agent after the expiry of his contract. Real Madrid is reportedly preparing to receive Mbappe after the Champions League final.

Versatile attacker: Typically a touchline-hugging right-winger, Olise has shone in a more central role under new Palace manager Oliver Glasner. | Photo credit: Getty Images

Michael Olise is fast emerging as one of the more interesting options in the second category. The Crystal Palace winger has starred in the Eagles’ resurgence under new manager Oliver Glasner, showing off his dazzling talent and putting himself, front and centre, in the shop window.

Last weekend, Olise delivered another impressive display as Palace registered its fifth win in six Premier League games by beating Wolves 3-1. In the first half, he opened the scoring with a delightful curling strike and played a key role in the buildup to the second scored by Jean-Philippe Mateta. He then assisted Eberechi Eze’s second-half goal, which wrapped up victory.

Agent of dominance

Five days before the Wolves performance at Molineux, Olise scored two delightful goals in a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United at Selhurst Park. 

The 22-year-old gave his side the lead after collecting a throw and nimbly sidestepping a Casemiro challenge. With no United player attempting to close him down, he was able to unleash a low shot from just inside the box. Olise’s second came from the edge of the box, with his first touch setting up a blistering left-footer that Andre Onana could not deal with.

Olise has now scored 10 goals this Premier League season, the first time he has hit double figures in top-flight football. Add his five assists and that totals up to 15 goal contributions in just 18 appearances (13 starts) during an injury-hit 2023-24! 

As per football statistics website FBref.com, Olise, over the last 365 days, is in the top 1% of all footballers across Europe’s top leagues for goals scored per 90 minutes. He is also in the top 1% for expected assisted goals. It simply doesn’t get much better in terms of end-product.

Olise has played in a different position under Glasner. Typically a touchline-hugging right-winger with the licence to cut in, he has been asked to occupy the half-space infield pockets behind the striker in Glasner’s 3-4-2-1. This has brought him closer to goal and allowed him to play off Eze, his left-sided counterpart in the attacking two, and frontman Mateta.

“Everybody knows he’s a brilliant player,” said Glasner. “He’s fit now, I also think we found a very good position for him and he has a lot of individual qualities.”

Artful dodger: Olise is a tricky, creative winger who can dribble through crowded areas as well as carry the ball in transition. | Photo credit: Getty Images

Artful dodger: Olise is a tricky, creative winger who can dribble through crowded areas as well as carry the ball in transition. | Photo credit: Getty Images

Tricky, creative, intelligent

Olise has always been a very skilful player — a tricky, creative winger who can dribble through crowded areas as well as carry the ball in transition. His agility — like Neymar, a reported inspiration, he shifts both his bodyweight and the ball when dribbling — makes him very difficult to dispossess 1v1. He is also an intelligent passer, with his ability to deliver pinpoint crosses with a low backlift adding significantly to his team’s shot-creating potential.

Now that Olise has beefed up his goal output, it’s no surprise he is attracting plenty of suitors. Last August, Chelsea failed in its bid to take Olise to Stamford Bridge. Pochettino’s club reportedly offered to pay his then £35 million release clause, but he turned down the chance and penned a new Palace contract just days after. BBC Sport reported that the new contract does not contain a straightforward release clause, but that the Eagles value him at at least £60m.

That price point, given Olise’s projected trajectory, is a relative snip for the rich clubs. So it’s not surprising that the 22-year-old has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Newcastle, with a host of other clubs also reported to be tracking Olise’s situation. What makes him such an attractive prospect is that in addition to his undeniable talent he also appears to have the personality to handle the pressures of a big club.

Born in London’s Hammersmith district to a Nigerian father and a French-Algerian mother, Olise has a reputation for being something of a maverick. A self-possessed young man who delivers blunt responses in interviews and does not always celebrate goals, the French under-21 international has often chosen the path less trod. As a teenager, he left the youth systems of Chelsea and City to join Reading, where he felt he would have the opportunity to develop.

Olise has also shown the composure to step up in important moments. Last December, he scored a brace in a 3-1 win over Brentford, snapping an eight-game winless run. In the same month, he held his nerve and calmly slotted home a 95th-minute penalty against City to earn a 2-2 draw after being two goals down at one stage. Last January, he produced a brilliant stoppage-time free-kick to rescue a 1-1 draw and end United’s run of nine successive wins.

Injury worries

Olise’s recent injury history — he missed 135 days in 2022-23 and 60 days in 2023-24 with hamstring injuries — may give some suitors pause, but most of the big clubs have world-class medical expertise and the resources to finance intensive individual attention. Injuries have crippled many a promising career, and it’s something Olise is dealing with philosophically.

“I think it’s been a bit tough mentally and physically, to keep getting injured,” he said. “But also, you know that you can come back from it, so you just try and take the positives, try and stay mentally in a good space. I just use every opportunity to try and get better every day — if it’s a little bit, if it’s a lot, whatever the day allows, really. I’m very hungry [to improve].”

Palace hopes to hold on to its man, with Glasner saying he wants to build on his excellent start with all of the players at his disposal. But given the amount of interest Olise is drawing, there’s a reasonable chance he leaves Selhurst Park. Where he goes, if he does, and what he gets up to should make for compelling viewing.

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