Michael Olise: A star turn sealed with a smile

There are times when the mystique that seems to surround Michael Olise falls away. The emotion comes pouring out, the celebration no longer subdued, his face illuminated by a beaming smile and, in this case, a run down the touchline to embrace manager Oliver Glasner.

He had too many reasons not to hide his feelings. That hug arrived after a second brilliant goal in a standout performance in Crystal Palace’s 4-0 win over Manchester United, as  Olise mesmerised a woeful defence throughout.

In his last 13 Premier League starts, the 22-year-old has 14 goal contributions. There have been nine goals and five assists in that period, while he has scored in five of his last seven starts.

That lends itself to ask what could have been and what might yet be for the Olise and Palace.

A rare display of emotion was written across his face 11 months ago in Romania during France Under-21s’ 1-0 win over Norway in the European Under-21 Championships. As he stretched for the ball, he held his hamstring, rolled his hands and indicated he required replacing. The diagnosis was a torn hamstring sustained. Olise held his shirt to his face, unable to hide his tears.

Yet on Monday night, that disappointment could not have been further from his mind. United were dominated by the slick, sharp interplay from Olise and Eberechi Eze which has helped to make Palace so enjoyable to watch, so efficient and effective in attack under Glasner.

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The partnership is burgeoning and had Selhurst Park enthralled again. There was once a fear that Palace fans had been deprived of the opportunity to see Olise in full flow, that his repeated injury problems would be too much and returning to his best too much of a challenge before a move away.

With a new manager and a refreshing approach, those worst fears have not been come to pass. It may be Olise at his best for an abridged period, not nearly as much as everyone would have preferred, but he has left plenty to cherish, even if these are his final appearances for Palace.

Olise’s first goal came out of nowhere. He controlled a throw-in, feinted to embarrass Casemiro before driving into space and shooting low beyond Andre Onana from the edge of the penalty area. His second goal, though, was a product of a conversation with his manager as much as his own talent.

Cutting inside from the right, as he did to great effect all evening, he fired past Onana at the near post — where ordinarily he would aim for the far post — before making a point of racing to celebrate with Glasner.

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Olise scores his second goal against Manchester United (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

It was both a moment which encapsulated his individual brilliance but also the improvement in the squad and the attention to detail that has been applied since the manager’s arrival in February.



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“We spoke after the Fulham game when he was under the shower,” Glasner said. “He was disappointed because he had three or four shots blocked, and some were straight at the goalkeeper. Very often, he shoots far post and I said ‘maybe try the near post, the goalkeeper might be surprised’. He shot at the near post and scored the goal, so it was because (of that).”

Palace might have been in a completely different situation had Olise remained injury-free for the campaign but he has bounced back with maturity and determination. That focus and tunnel vision that helps him terrorise defences has led him to a point where his future is once again under major discussion.

Inevitably, that focus will be at domestic level and what might happen this summer, but Olise’s international ambition should dominate the discussion in the first instance.

With only two Premier League games remaining, even the form he has demonstrated since Glasner’s arrival may not be sufficient to force his way into the reckoning at senior level for France ahead of Euro 2024. But there ought to be a conversation at the very least about whether, a year on from disappointment at a European Championships at under-21 level, he might be given a chance to continue what he started, but this time at a higher level.

It may have come too soon, especially given the quality of the players at France’s disposal and the risk of taking an uncapped player with only seven under-21 caps, while the Olympic Games may also hamper any hopes of a call-up to Didier Deschamps’ Euro 2024 squad.

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Olise is expected to be in contention for France’s Olympic squad this summer (Flaviu Buboi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The England manager, Gareth Southgate, in attendance on Monday night, might have wished Olise was not minded to represent France or he might have made overtures to entice him to represent the country of his birth instead.

But it is at under-23 level, at a home Olympics in Paris, where his summer involvement is most likely. Strong performances there, should he be selected, and an injury-free tournament may, however, further pique the interest in him at domestic level.

There is no reason to be concerned over the length of Olise’s contract, given the new four-year deal signed in August after he came close to joining Chelsea.

A release clause will unquestionably entice many clubs again this summer. United could conceivably be one of those interested — although it is to their neighbours Manchester City, whom Olise briefly played for at youth level, where he would be more drawn — particularly after a chastening experience of just how effective he can be in this Palace victory.

How much impact on his future will those injuries have, particularly if clubs are more financially prudent? Combine potential concerns there with the adoration he has received in south London, the revival and renewed ambition under Glasner, and Palace may just hold out some hope, however slim, that they can persuade him to stay for one more season.

Olise is destined for the top. It is a matter of when, not if. That when is what will be on Palace’s minds.

(Top photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

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