Crystal Palace made the bold decision in the summer to release Cheick Kouyate and Patrick Vieira may be regretting that call after the 32-year-old’s impressive start at the 2022 World Cup.
The experienced midfielder started for Senegal in their Group A opener against the Netherlands and played a huge part in the African side frustrating the Oranje on Monday afternoon.
It was only when Kouyate was replaced through injury that Louis van Gaal’s side would be able to find the breakthrough, with late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen earning them a 2-0 win.
The former West Ham man was one of Senegal’s best players in Qatar, earning a strong 7.1/10 rating from SofaScore for his performance, with only Ismaila Sarr and Youssouf Sabaly (both 7.2) rated higher.
During his time on the pitch, the versatile star would complete 18/21 of his passes, including one key pass, in what was an assured midfield display.
His physicality also came to the fore against a technically-gifted Netherlands midfield, as he won 50% of his duels and completed his one dribble attempt.
Should Palace have kept Kouyate?
He was also a key reason for the scores being level when he was forced off after an unfortunate injury, as he contributed four clearances and two interceptions, with no player on the pitch completing more interceptions.
Considering Palace’s lack of defensive options in midfield, with namesake Cheick Doucoure often the only natural midfielder in Vieira’s recent starting lineups, the French manager may be regretting the experienced Kouyate depart.
During his time at Selhurst Park, the Senegal international would make 141 appearances, in which he contributed three goals and five assists, which included 27 appearances in the Premier League last season.
Scott Dann was full of praise for Kouyate after a strong performance against Southampton in 2020, saying:
“He [Kouyate] is a top player; he can play midfield and he showed what he is capable of in the back four. He’s been playing like that since the end of last season.”
It is no surprise that the 32-year-old has been a regular with Premier League rivals Nottingham Forest since his Palace departure and after his superb start to the World Cup, Vieira may well be ruing his decision to let him leave on a free transfer.