Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira says that it is too early to discuss the future of Cheikhou Kouyate and the rest of the players who are out of contract at the end of the season.
Kouyate, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, will be allowed to leave at the end of the season on a free transfer should the Eagles fail to negotiate a contract extension with the 32-year-old.
The Athletic reported more than a fortnight ago that the South Londoners are in talks with Kouyate over a new 12-month extension at Selhurst Park but stated that the midfielder would prefer to pen a two-year deal.
Kouyate has featured more than 100 times for the Eagles since he signed from London rivals West Ham United in 2018 and was linked to clubs in Saudi Arabia over the winter window.
When asked whether he would like to keep Kouyate beyond his current deal, Vieira said: “We are in a situation where it is too early to talk about what will happen with Cheikhou or some of the players.
“I have a really good group to work with, and he is part of that group. I want to go through those difficult moments – the number of games we are playing – without any distractions.
“He knows all the good I think of him, but our main focus is to try to go as far in the FA Cup and get those wins we need in the Premier League, then we will talk about contracts. But at the moment, it is not the right time.”
Kouyate has started in all six of Crystal Palace’s Premier League wins this season and has become a key figure under the French World Cup winner.
“He gives you the balance,” said Vieira. “He is somebody that wins so many balls, he stops the counter-attacks from the opposition, he brings his physicality, and he is always someone who manages to win the ball, and his first pass is always good.
“When you want to play in a certain way, it’s good to have those players who can stop those counter-attacks – this physical presence that we need around the team, and especially in the midfield when you look at the competitiveness and physicality of the Premier League.
“His experience as well is massively important for us.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD