Cheikhou Kouyate is name well-known to Premier League supporters having featured 129 times in the division for West Ham United since 2014, but he brings plenty more pedigree than that to Crystal Palace following his move across London.
Born in the Senegalese capital Dakar in 1989, Kouyate began playing football in his hometown with ASC Yego Dakar aged seven. His big move to Europe arrived in 2007 when he signed for FC Brussels, but he would only make 10 appearances before departing with the club struggling financially.
However, he had impressed sufficiently to attract the attention of Belgian giants Anderlecht, and proved to be an inspired signing. After spending a season on loan at second tier side KV Kortrijk, upon his return he instantly forced himself into the team to help Anderlecht win the league title in his first season, and then three more in succession between 2011/12 and 2013/14 plus three Belgian Super Cups.
Impressively, the central midfielder also played in all 12 of the club’s UEFA Champions League matches during their two seasons in the competition in 2012 and 2013 and earning credible draws with AC Milan and Paris St Germain. In his final season in the Belgian capital, he also played alongside Luka Milivojevic in the heart of midfield which helped secure a hat-trick of league titles.
By this time, he had begun to make an impression with the Senegal national team having debuted against South Africa early in 2012. He had three full caps to his name when he was included in his nation’s squad for the London Olympic Games, where alongside Pape Souare he played against Great Britain in the opening match as Senegal made it to the quarter-finals.
With his CV beginning to bulge, it was inevitable that he would be sought after by bigger clubs, and in the summer of 2014 Sam Allardyce moved to bring him to West Ham United. He would play 32 times in his first season at Upton Park, followed by 42 at the final campaign at the ground as he once again asserted himself as a regular in the line-up.
Following the club’s move to the London Stadium in 2016, Kouyate wrote himself in Hammers history by bagging the first goal at the venue in a Europa League qualifier against NK Domžale and continued to be a key component for club and country.
He played in his second Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 2017 as Senegal reached the quarter-finals with Kouyate as captain, having been handed the armband two years earlier. He would continue in the role as he guided his country to their first World Cup since 2002, and played in all three of their matches in Russia as they beat Poland, drew with Japan and lost to Colombia to narrowly miss out on the knockout stages.