When Cheikhou Kouyate first signed for Crystal Palace not many people thought he would last his entire contract.
But three years down the line, the midfielder has reinvented the wheel and been one of the most consistent performances for the Eagles.
He has 128 appearances across all competitions, and is one of the colourful characters in the Crystal Palace dressing room as they look create a new path under Patrick Vieira.
The Senegalese is the ultimate manager’s player.
He hardly complains and spent the last year of Roy Hodgson’s time at the club playing as a central defender with a smile on his face.
Under Vieira, the Senegal international has been restored to his favourite central midfield role, and his absence through the Africa Cup of Nations was felt as Palace failed to pick a win in the league.
Tactically he is disciplined and has the attitude to succeed at every level, even if he could do with polishing his passing and his use of the ball in close spaces.
He plays the game with intensity and love like a child who has been unleashed in a candy shop.
But with his contract coming to end, and Palace wary of the 32-year-old’s age, both player and Palace have been working on reaching a compromise.
What does the player and his camp want?
The midfielder wants an increase on his £65,000-a-week wages and a two-year contract extension that would take him to 34, the same age James McArthur is at the moment.
There is genuine interest from clubs in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but Kouyate is enjoying his time in south London and has found a spot in the Palace team which he didn’t quite manage at West Ham.
Another sticking point is his relationship with Vieira, a man he grew up idolising and travelled to Europe to try to replicate his career.
He’s enjoyed the first few months with the former Arsenal man as manager and would love to at least stay on, but it will take more than admiration for the manager to get the deal across the line.
Kouyate’s stock has risen due to his impact with the Teranga Lions and the role he played in winning the AFCON.
The fact that Palace seemed to struggle with consistency and winning in his absence has given his team a bargaining chip.
LondonWorld understands Kouyate thinks the contract would represent his growing influence on the team, and the security of a two-year-deal, which is his last big pay cheque.
What Crystal Palace want
Crystal Palace love Kouyate and like that fact he is such a likeable player. He always steps on the pitch ready for battle.
But the focus of the club now is spending money on youngsters and trying to reduce the age of the team.
Keeping players like Kouyate in the squad for more than a season goes against this policy.
Players like James McArthur 34, Jordan Ayew, 30, Luka Milivojević, 30, and Joel Ward, 32, are all in the same ship and the club will have to make a firm decision on what they offer to all these players going forward.
The good news for Kouyate is that the club are offering a one-year extension, which is a significant increase on his current £65,000-a-week salary.
However, the Palace hierachy are sceptical about a two-year deal.
Crystal Palace came to a compromise with Christian Benteke, who agreed a salary reduction in exchange for a longer deal and Kouyate and his team could propose a similar deal.
Palace are likely to accept that, but they will still have to get rid of some players in their 30s to try and keep the overall age of the squad down.
Then there is the very delicate issue of star man Wilfried Zaha, who has a year left on his contract, and the club have to make a decision on the way forward.
Zaha doesn’t want to extend his stay, and Palace are now well equipped with youngsters who can at least minimise his exit.
The club’s long term plan is to be as stable as possible and save money by bringing youngsters straight into the first team like Tyrick Mitchell and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Does Kouyate want to stay at Crystal Palace
After the Africa Cup of Nations Kouyate hinted he would be at Selhurst Park next year, by talking about ambitions with Palace.
That suggests a player who is looking to stay behind the current six months left on his deal.
He said: “Thank you guys and thank you for the support. I’m very very happy and next year we can win the league.”
The midfielder also spoke of the joy of winning the AFCON, saying it was the best day of his life.
“I can’t explain this happiness,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable – it was the best day of my life. The celebrations were too much!
“It’s crazy because we know it’s the first trophy for Senegal, and for us also it means we are now in the story of Senegal.
“When we were younger and Senegal were playing, we would support the team. Now you are a player in the team and you bring home the cup.”