By Sam Smith
New Crystal Palace signing Erdal Rakip has heaped praise on head coach Roy Hodgson and is excited to get a shot at playing Premier League football.
Hodgson managed Rakip’s former club Malmö between 1985 and 1989, leading the Sky Blues to five consecutive league championships and two Swedish Cups.
Rakip told eagles.cpfc.co.uk: “It will be an honour playing for Roy. He is a legend in Malmö and everyone knows who he is.”
The 21-year-old became Hodgson’s first signing made by the Eagles’ head coach, joining the South Londoners on a temporary deal from Benfica.
Rakip said: “[Coming to Palace] will be fantastic. It feels amazing arriving to the best league in the world and to be part of a great team. It’s a fantastic club with a lot of history that plays entertaining football. It feels great to be here.
“It feels amazing finally arriving to Crystal Palace, which is the best option for my development and my career at this stage.
“I’m a balanced number six, box-to-box player who runs up and down the field.”
Rakip joined Benfica in January when his contract expired at Malmö and has immediately joined the Eagles until the end of the season. He was a product of the Allsvenskan side’s academy and made his senior debut in 2013, going on to score 12 times in 120 appearances – including appearing in the UEFA Champions League in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The Swedish season ended in November and questions had been raised over Rakip’s fitness, but he had been training since the culmination of the Allsvenskan and will be ready to play a part when called upon by Hodgson.
The Swede has nine caps for his nation’s under-21 side, scoring once, but has never appeared for the senior team.
He adds depth to a Palace midfield depleted by injuries. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has failed to appear since December 28 due to an ankle problem, while Yohan Cabaye suffered a twisted ankle late in the club’s disappointing 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday. Club captain Jason Puncheon is out for the rest of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the impressive 0-0 draw against Manchester City last month.
Poland defender Jarosław Jach, 24, is expected to join Rakip at Palace..
A severe injury crisis has forced Hodgson to change his plans this summer. Palace were originally linked with bigger deals for Fiorentina striker Khouma Babacar and Getafe goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, but have instead been forced into signing less reputable players for smaller fees with a view to bolster a small squad.
Jach, capable of playing at centre-back or left-back, would provide cover for defensive pair James Tomkins and Martin Kelly. Mamadou Sakho is expected to be out for a number of weeks while Scott Dann has a similar injury to Puncheon which also rules him out until the beginning of next season. At left-back, Jeffrey Schlupp suffered a knee injury against rivals Brighton and Hove Albion which will leave him sidelined for several months.
Rakip is expected to be included in the squad for Palace’s trip across London to West Ham United on January 30.