Who is West Ham United's new signing Nayef Aguerd?
The 26-year-old, who moves to the London Stadium in a deal believed to be worth around £30m, has spent the last four years playing in France, but he now gets the chance to step up to a higher level and test himself in the Premier League.
Aguerd is now set to compete with Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop for a place in David Moyes's starting lineup, although the latter has been linked with a move away from the Hammers.
Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Aguerd's career so far and what West Ham supporters could expect from the Morocco international at the London Stadium.
Early Beginnings© Reuters
Born in the northwestern city of Kenitra in Morocco, Aguerd began his youth career with local club KAC of Kenitra before joining the Mohammed VI Football Academy located in the capital city of Rabat. The defender is regarded as one of the most high-profile players to graduate from the academy, along with Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri and Schalke 04's Hamza Mendyl.
Aguerd spent two years with the the Mohammed VI Football Academy between 2012 and 2014 before stepping up to senior football and joining Moroccan top-flight outfit FUS Rabat.
In November 2014 at the age of 16, the centre-back made his debut for FUS Rabat against Chabab Rif Al-Hoceima and he went on to make 75 appearances for the club across all competitions over the next four years, winning the Botola Pro Inwi title in 2016 which is still the club's first and only top-flight success to date.
Aguard's performances in his homeland caught the eye of a number of clubs in Europe, with Ligue 1 side Dijon opting to recruit the defender in the summer of 2018 for around £1m.
Form with Dijon and Rennes© Reuters
Aguerd made the perfect start to life with Dijon, scoring on his debut in a 4-0 away victory against Nice in August 2018. However, he went on to endure an injury-hit first season with the club, featuring in only 17 games out of a possible 46 across all competitions.
The Moroccan was then plagued with an ankle injury, which ruled him out of action for around three months midway through the following campaign. Aguerd eventually made only 12 appearances in all tournaments, with the season cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Aguerd played only 29 times, scoring four goals, in his first two seasons of French football with Dijon before making the switch to Rennes in 2020, who had just qualified for the Champions League for the first time.
The Moroccan was immediately brought into the first-team fold by head coach Bruno Genesio and he managed to put his previous injury woes behind him, making 40 appearances in all competitions at the heart of the defence. While Aguerd's former club Dijon were relegated from Ligue 1 just 12 months after his departure, Rennes finished the 2020-21 campaign in sixth place and qualified for the inaugural Europa Conference League.
Despite links with a move to West Ham last summer, Aguerd stayed put at Roazhon Park where he elevated his game to new heights in the 2021-22 season. The 6ft 2in defender was one of the standout performers in the French top flight, featuring 40 times for a second successive season across all tournaments, helping the club to finish fourth and qualify for the Europa League – only Marseille kept more clean sheets in Ligue 1 than Rennes last term.
During his time with Rennes, Aguerd played against three English clubs in Europe, firstly losing 3-0 against Chelsea in the Champions League group stage in 2020, before facing Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City in last season's Europa Conference League, drawing 2-2 in the group stage against the former on home soil, before losing 3-2 on aggregate to the latter in the last 16.
International Experience© Reuters
Aguerd's first taste of international action came in April 2015 when he made his debut for Morocco's Under-23s side. The then 19-year-old made four more appearances at youth level before receiving his first senior international cap in August 2016, playing the full 90 minutes in a friendly goalless draw against Albania.
With just one cap to his name, Aguerd was named in Morocco's 23-man squad for the 2018 African Nations Championships – a competition not to be mistaken with the Africa Cup of Nations – which the Atlas Lions went on to win for the first time in their history. Aguerd, however, only made one appearance in the tournament, coming on as a substitute for the final 18 minutes of extra time in the semi-final.
Aguerd missed out on a call-up for the 2018 World Cup and he made only three international appearances between September that year and March 2021, but when his form at club level with Rennes became difficult to ignore, manager Vahid Halilhodzic decided to integrate him into his first-team plans and the defender has never looked back since.
In September last year, Aguerd scored his first international goal against Sudan in a 2022 World Cup qualifier. The Rennes centre-back was later called up for the delayed 2021 AFCON tournament held in January this year and played in all five matches, including the semi-final defeat in extra time against Egypt.
Aguerd has made a total of 25 senior international appearances for Morocco and the defender is set to be a part of Halihodzic's squad for the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which will see the Atlas Lions face Belgium, Croatia and Canada in Group F.