West Ham sign Cheikhou Kouyate: Who is the £7 million midfielder and what can the fans expect?
The versatile Senegalese international has signed a four-year deal to become the Hammers' second signing of the summer. Here, we take a detailed look at Sam Allardyce's new signing.
West Ham were widely criticised by their fans for lacking ambition in the 2013/14 campaign, but the arrival of highly-rated Cheikhou Kouyate will silence critics of the Hammers' transfer policy.
After a disastrous transfer window a year ago, manager Sam Allardyce appears keen not to make the same mistakes again.
He has already moved to bring in striker Mauro Zarate on a free transfer from Argentinian side Velez Sarsfield, but there was a certain buzz of excitement around the club after they announced the signing of Kouyate from Belgian league champions Anderlecht.
Kouyate, 24, moved to Europe from his native Senegal at the age of 15, signing with Belgian side FC Brussels, and after making a handful of appearances, he was signed by Anderlecht in 2008. Since then, he has gone on to become a first-team regular, making 145 appearances in the Juplier Pro League.
Previously linked with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Everton, the club confirmed they had to fight "several other clubs" for his signature. And even despite the inflated £7 million fee for a player unproven in the major European leagues, it appears that this could well be a shrewd piece of business from West Ham.
Despite his young age, Kouyate already has four league winners' medals to his name during his time at Anderlecht, as well as a wealth of experience in the Champions League and 11 caps for Senegal.
Standing at 6'4", his slender frame has seen him likened to former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira. He can either play as a centre-half or a deep-lying central midfielder, and is usually unbeatable in aerial duels, which will undoubtedly suit West Ham's direct style of play.
Strong in the tackle and a superb interceptor of the ball, Kouyate is an excellent reader of the game. Crucially, he is very confident on the ball and his sheer athleticism allows him to be regularly involved in play further up the field.
Cheikhou Kouyate (left) and Mohamed Diame (right), pictured playing for Senegal, will be reunited together at West Ham
Kouyate could be utilised in midfield - where he plays regularly for his country alongside team-mate Mohamed Diame - as Winston Reid and James Tomkins have formed solid partnership at the back. Nevertheless, his versatility will be key to Allardyce as injuries are likely to occur throughout the season.
If there is one negative point to draw on Kouyate, it would be why the clubs who had courted him for so long eventually decided against signing him. The transition from playing in the Belgian league to the English Premier League is regarded as a significant step up and there may be some concerns initially as to how he copes with a higher standard of football.
But otherwise, the signing of Kouyate seems to be a step in the right direction for West Ham. A promising, determined player with a strong physical presence should have no problems settling in to the fast-paced environment of the Premier League, and West Ham will be quietly confident the tenacious midfielder can have a productive debut season in England.
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