Jeffrey Schlupp is a fascinating case study in the art of perception. It’s always felt like the Ghana international has been on the fringes of every team he’s been at; a bit part player capable of remarkable moments of attacking intelligence, but a disposable option at that. Yet here he is at 30 years old with a Premier League winners’ medal, 224 top-flight appearances and a starting berth in Patrick Vieira’s new-look Crystal Palace team.
Born in Hamburg, Germany to Ghanaian parents, Schlupp moved to England at a young age and joined Leicester City’s academy in 2005 at the age of 12, eventually joining Brentford on loan where he would make his senior debut and start in the 2011 Football League Trophy Final, before returning to the King Power the following summer and scoring a hat-trick in his Leicester debut against Rotherham United. He would proceed to make 150 appearances for the Foxes, beginning his time in the Championship and ending it in the Champions League, before moving to Palace in January 2017 for £12 million.
Despite being viewed as a utility option for much of his career, Schlupp has transcended multiple managers and new signings to cement his legacy as a dependable Premier League player. It’s time to give this man the respect he deserves. Much of the discussion around Schlupp ultimately boils down to his particular style of play. Not blessed with the same technical proficiency as his teammates, Schlupp relies on his movement, energy and a strong eye for goal to pop up in big moments and make the difference.
A peripheral figure to the untrained eye, as he doesn’t go searching for the ball to feet, this feeds the perception that he is often on the fringes of the team. You rarely notice he’s playing until he’s right there, rifling the ball into the back of the net. He is, however, yet to miss a game for Palace this season.
Schlupp’s versatility also makes it hard for people to nail down his best position. Though he’s used almost exclusively as a central midfielder at Palace, Schlupp made his name as a marauding left-back during Leicester’s title win. And it’s this lack of familiarity that leaves people struggling to see Schlupp as anything but a squad player.
A strong and energetic presence in the middle of the park – he averages 3.96 tackles and blocks per 90. The fact that Palace are in the market for a new midfielder to take some of the onus of Cheick Doucoure once again speaks to the idea that Schlupp is and always has been a disposable option, and with his contract set to expire in June, his time at Selhurst Park could be coming to an end after 6.5 years. It feels as though Schlupp deserves a move to a club where he’s given the respect he deserves, but at 30, has that time passed him by?
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / John Walton – PA Images