Seven things you need to know about West Ham United's new loan signing Alphonse Areola
1. He grew up in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower
Alphonse Areola’s parents Cleto and Heidi immigrated to France from the Philippines in the late 1980s, settling in Paris’s Grenelle district, just south of the Eiffel Tower. Areola joined the local Entente Sportive des Petits Anges (Little Angels Sports Club) at the age of six and initially played as a left-back. A year later, when the regular goalkeeper was injured at a tournament in Romainville, he took the gloves for the first time at the iconic Émile Anthoine Stadium on the Rive Gauche (left bank) of the River Seine!
2. He joined his boyhood club as a teenager
Alphonse Areola was scouted by Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 13 and, following negotiations with his family, he signed a five-year training contract to join the club he supported as a boy. He was also selected by the national football training centre in Clairefontaine, where he would train during the week before playing for PSG at weekends. In his first season with PSG, 2006/07, he helped the club win the French Under-14 title.
3. He was nicknamed 'Superstar'
Areola’s outstanding performances and determined, focused personality saw him earn the nickname ‘Superstar’ and quickly move up through the age-groups, playing for PSG’s U19s at the age of 16 and making his ‘B’ team debut at 17 in 2010. He was also capped regularly by France at every level from U17 to U21.
4. He's a World Cup winner! (Part One)
The year 2013 was a breakthrough one for Areola. He made his first-team debut as a substitute for injured Italy international Salvatore Sirigu in a 3-1 home Ligue 1 win over Brest on 18 May, and his first senior start in a 3-1 win at Lorient a week later. Two months later, he was France’s hero in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final, saving two Uruguayan penalties to lead his nation to their first ever triumph in the competition.
5. He enjoyed a hat-trick of successful loan spells
Areola spent the 2013/14 season on loan with Ligue 2 side RC Lens. At the age of 20, he excelled, keeping 12 clean sheets and conceding just 31 goals in 35 appearances to lead the club from north eastern France to promotion to Ligue 1. His performances earned him the Ligue 2 Goalkeeper of the Year award.
He was then loaned to Ligue 1 club Bastia for the 2014/15 season. Again, he impressed, keeping eleven clean sheets as the team from the Mediterranean island of Corsica finished safely in mid-table. He also helped Bastia reach the Coupe de la Ligue final, where they were reduced to ten men inside 20 minutes and ultimately lost 4-0 to his parent club PSG.
The goalkeeper made it three outstanding loan spells in three seasons in 2015/16, keeping 15 clean sheets and conceding just 26 goals in 32 La Liga appearances for Spanish club Villarreal. Domestically, he shut out Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia in home victories as Villarreal finished fourth to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, while he also made his European debut, helping The Yellow Submarine reach the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
6. He won trophies galore with PSG
Areola spent the next three seasons with his boyhood club PSG, ousting Germany international Kevin Trapp as No1 goalkeeper and making 105 appearances under managers Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel. The three seasons were hugely successful as he helped PSG win two Ligue 1 titles, two Coupes de France, two Coupes de la Ligue and three Trophées des Champions.
7. He's a World Cup winner! (Part Two)
Areola became just the fourth player to win a FIFA World Cup before making his full international debut, following Italy pair Franco Baresi and Giovanni Galli in 1982 and Argentina goalkeeper Héctor Zelada in 1986, when he was part of the France squad that triumphed in Russia in 2018. He subsequently debuted in a UEFA Nations League tie with Germany in September 2018. With three senior caps now to his name, Areola has yet to taste defeat in a France shirt.