Inside the contract stand off that brought an abrupt end to Cheikhou Kouyate’s Crystal Palace career

Cheikhou Kouyate has left Crystal Palace after failing to agree a contract with the club.

Nottingham Forest are in contact with Cheikhou Kouyate’s representatives as they look to add the experienced Crystal Palace midfielder to their litany of summer signings.

The Senegal international has been a model professional throughout his time in south London, and has been a mainstay of the Premier League since he joined West Ham in 2014.

At Upton Park and the London Stadium, he was one of the favourite players of Slaven Bilić, who loved his professionalism and his endearing ability not to complain.

The defensive midfielder was always the one who would apologise first if he made a mistake in a game, an attitude which was rare and unique for players and coaching staff under Bilic.

Roy Hodgson brought him to Palace as a midfielder, but before the ex-England boss left Selhurst Park the Dakar-born footballer started playing as a central defender and not once did he let his manager down.

Kouyate’s humility stems from the fact he sees being a professional footballer as a gift from Allah.

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Throughout his childhood he faced rejection and it got worse when he left home in Senegal in pursuit of a career in Europe.

Cheikhou Kouyate of Anderlecht in action during the Jupiler League match between Royal Standard de Liege and RSC Anderlecht (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Aged only 18, he left Dakar in search of football opportunities in Europe.

Across France and Belgium he impressed many top scouts and agents, but the lack of work permit meant many glorious opportunities passed him.

It was painful yet he did not have the luxury of pain or self pity.

There is a saying that when you hang around the barbershop long enough, sooner or later you will get a haircut, and that is what changed his life.

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A Turkish agent picked him up and helped him get a work permit, his skill got him into Anderlecht and the rest they say is history.

Bilic adored him, Hodgson loved him and Vieira respected him, even when they disagreed on his contract.

One of the best things the now 32-year-old midfielder will take away from football when he retires is the fact that he was able to play under Patrick Vieira, the same man he adored when he was s kid dreaming of football on the streets of Dakar.

He played 31 times under Vieira and has a really good relationship with his idol, even though they both will look back at the way he left the club with a bitter taste in their mouth.

Cheikhou Kouyate of Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson, Manager of Crystal Palace look on (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The Kouyate contract situation and how it played out

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When Kouyate returned from the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon in February 2022, the club tried all they could to tie him down for another year.

But the new AFCON champion was looking for at least a two-year deal, while Palace were offering just a 12 month contract.

The midfielder had no issue with the wages on the contract, what he did have a problem with was the length and he knew the club had the money as they were publicly flirting with Cheick Doucouré, a younger more flexible long-term replacement.

Football is more like a cattle market these days with everyone looking at their best interests.

The player knew this would be his last chance at getting a good contract and everything was going his way.

In his absence during the AFCON Palace struggled, and when he returned his impact was immediately felt, so he know he had the club where he wanted.

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There were also offers from clubs in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who were offering ridiculous money and longer contracts.

His agent told Palace they had other offers and would consider them.

Palace insisted they wanted to keep him and that he was central to what they were building, but Kouyate felt he had earned the right to at least be trusted with a contract like the one they gave Christian Benteke.

The love was there from the player and the club, but business is business.

Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham United in action during the Barclays Premier League match (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Palace pull contract off the table

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As the summer transfer window opened, Crystal Palace started pre-season and took the offer they had presented to Kouyate off the table after they agreed a fee for Doucouré.

The midfielder was not aware the contract was off the table and when his agent enquired with Palace, they were told the Eagles had moved on and that offer was no longer available.

Kouyate’s family is settled in London, and even though there are still offers in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, he feels there is still a place for him in the Premier League after 270 league games between West Ham and Crystal Palace.

The only regret he will have is that he did not believe a substitute appearance against Manchester United would be his last for the Eagles.

Kouyate would have liked to have said a proper goodbye to the Selhurst Park faithful.

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Kouyate’s legacy at Crystal Palace

The midfielder has never really been a fan favourite, but he’s been respected for his contribution at Selhurst Park. Where he gets most of his love is from his coaches and teammates.

His soft voice and humility is a credit to a modern day dressing room that can sometimes be brutal and rough.

He is seen by his teammates as a big brother without ego, and he goes the extra mile to be there for them especially in tough times.

He was Eberechi Eze’s big shoulder to lean on when he was out with injury and would cheer up the likes of Jordan Ayew and Michael Olise when they encountered problems.

Some players have told LondonWorld anonymously that he will be a massive miss and that they wish he was coming back to Selhurst Park.

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However Kouyate could be returning to Croydon in the red of Nottingham Forest.