West Ham have officially announced the signing of Anderlecht powerhouse Cheikhou Kouyate on a four-year contract, as reported by the London club's Twitter account:
Joint-chairman David Gold welcomed the Senegalese player to England, highlighting the battle to land his signature may have been arduous:
I am delighted to welcome Cheikhou Kouyate to West Ham. We beat some big Clubs to get him and I am sure he will be a fantastic signing. dg— David Gold (@davidgold) June 18, 2014
The versatile 6'4" juggernaut, who can slot into central defence or in a shielding midfield role, has plenty of experience winning trophies and playing in the Champions League. His career in Belgium saw him move from FC Brussels to Anderlecht on a free in 2008, where he was loaned out to KV Kortrijk during his first campaign at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
Since returning, Kouyate has won three consecutive Jupiler League crowns with an Anderlecht side that is used to dominating Belgium's domestic scene and struggling in Europe's elite competition. West Ham offers a different challenge for the 24-year-old who is capable of helping Sam Allardyce's team improve on their 13th-placed finish during the 2013-14 campaign.
Kouyate is thrilled to link up with the Hammers, as reported by the club's official website:
"I am very happy, because today West Ham have given me the chance to play in the Premier League," the player said. "So I'm very happy to join such a club and that gives me great pleasure."
Allardyce's team are famous for using long balls and overpowering physicality to batter their opponents, an approach he has been asked to develop into a "a more expansive, attacking style of football" by the club's hierarchy, per Michael Oliver of Metro.
Even so, WhoScored.com's stat highlights there will be no shortage of presence when Kouyate is on the pitch:
Cheikhou Kouyate: Had the best aerial success rate (91.7%) of all players to compete in 10+ aerial duels in the CL last season #WHUFC— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 18, 2014
The new signing's competitive Premier League debut could also prove to be a special day for Allardyce, who is set to reach his next landmark during the upcoming campaign's opening match, per OptaJoe:
Kouyate's move away from Belgium has been simmering for a while. Blessed with decent pace, an aggressive tackling style and aerial efficiency, he is built to dominate. He possesses a forward-thinking nature when in possession and is confident enough to comfortably pass the ball out of defence, attributes that can see him move away from a centre-back role on a more permanent basis.
Is Cheikhou Kouyate a good signing for West Ham?
Interestingly, West Ham's aforementioned tweet did announce him as a midfielder, despite spending much of his career in defence, perhaps highlighting the role he will take on. Sky Sports reveals clubs including Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton and Southampton were keeping tabs on his progress, indicating West Ham have grabbed a real coup.
Kouyate is the Hammers' second signing of the summer after Mauro Zarate joined the club. Both are extremely positive transfers for Allardyce, who needs to flex tactical versatility during his fourth season in charge.
If he doesn't, it's unlikely the Englishman will be in charge to see Kouyate fully develop.