Conor Gallagher: Will midfield talent stay at Crystal Palace?

When it comes to discussing the best signings of the season, Conor Gallagher's name has surely got to be in the mix.

The 21-year-old was farmed out on loan by Chelsea, where he has yet to make a senior appearance, to Crystal Palace for experience at the start of the campaign.

Not only has Gallagher become a cult hero among Palace fans, he has also forced his way into the England team.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate, a former Palace favourite, will have marvelled at Gallagher's second goal from outside the box which sealed the points in a 3-1 win over Everton on Sunday.

It was his second of the match and sixth of the season.

So what does the future hold for Gallagher - and what are the pundits saying about this incredible talent?

Crystal Palace 3-1 Everton: Gallagher goal was "special" says Vieira

Six goals and three assists - impact player

Not only has Gallagher scored six times in a Palace shirt, he's also provided three assists for his team-mates.

Indeed, his nine direct goal involvements in the Premier League this term are the most of any player currently 21 or under.

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Look a little closely and Gallagher has been directly involved in 41% of Palace's goals in the Premier League - the highest proportion for a team by any English player in the competition this term.

And his work-rate has been impressive. The 11.2km he covered against Everton was the most of any Palace player, as were his 20 sprints and 347 intensive runs.

"Whoever brought him to this football club deserves an award," former Palace striker Clinton Morrison told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Talking about his wonder goal in the 93rd minute past Jordan Pickford, Morrison added: "What a finish. He wins the ball, the bend into the top corner past England's number one is fantastic, this kid's a big, big player for Crystal Palace."

'I love it at Palace'

This is Gallagher's fourth loan spell in three years while a Chelsea player.

The midfielder scored six times for Charlton Athletic in 2019-20 before temporarily joining their Championship rivals Swansea City in the same season.

Gallagher, who turns 22 in February, got his first taste of top-flight action with West Brom last season, but it is at Palace where he is really making a name for himself.

Against Everton he was sharp, inventive and at the heart of everything that was good about Palace's first win since 6 November.

"I love it here," Gallagher said afterwards.

"Hearing the fans sing my name is a great feeling for me and gives me confidence, which is amazing for a player.

"Hopefully I can continue to impress them. I always give my all and I try to affect the game as much as I can."

In total, Gallagher has scored eight goals and provided five assists in 45 appearances in England's top flight.

Conor Gallagher scores for Crystal Palace against Everton in the Premier League
Conor Gallagher's nine direct goals involvements in the Premier League this season - six goals and three assists - is the most of any player currently aged 21 or under in the competition

Will Gallagher stay at Selhurst Park?

His loan agreement is until the end of the season when he is due to return to Chelsea and has a Blues contract until 2025.

Gallagher has played more minutes for England than for parent club Chelsea after coming on as a substitute in the 10-0 World Cup walkover against San Marino last month.

His Palace boss Patrick Vieira, a World Cup-winning midfielder with France in 1998, was asked about the prospect of signing the player permanently.

"We don't think about what will happen in the future. We have him for a year and we are pleased to work with him," he said.

"It's a win-win. We'll see what happens at the end of the season."

Vieira said Gallagher was a work in progress and there was more to come from him.

"He'll need to manage his strength and find out the best way to manage his energy," he added.

"He's a fantastic player to have. He gives everything to the team and he can score goals. To have a midfielder who can score 10-15 goals is important."

In his BBC Sport Column, former Tottenham player Garth Crooks says Gallagher would be making a "terrible mistake" if he stayed at Chelsea.

"The only problem with this is he is either going to cost Patrick Vieira too much money to buy - or worse he stays at Chelsea, which in my view would be a terrible mistake by the player," he adds.

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