Nayef Aguerd

Nayef Aguerd | Road To Recovery

After a pre-season injury, Nayef Aguerd's thoughts quickly turned to the impending FIFA World Cup. 

Morocco had qualified for a successive tournament, with the new Hammers’ defender more than playing his part in a tough qualification process. Aguerd’s country would be looking to reach the knockout stages for the first time since 1986.

Morocco's goal was clear, but as he trudged off the field against Rangers, Aguerd's involvement was less so...


In a pre-season friendly in Glasgow, Aguerd stretched to challenge Rangers' forward Antonio Colak. He knew something was wrong – almost instantly.

“My teammates were looking at my foot,” Aguerd recalls. “They were all worried. I saw my ankle was heavily swollen and understood it would take a long time to come to back on the pitch.”

Aguerd was quickly substituted and later taken to a local hospital. A scan confirmed that while the No27’s ankle was not broken, there was serious damage alongside the pain. The new signing was told to expect a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Richard Collinge, Head of Medical Services at West Ham United, explained that the defender "had torn the ligaments on the outside and inside of his ankle.”

In short, Nayef would need surgery.

“It was the first big injury in my career,” Aguerd later reflected. “I don’t want to have this kind of injury ever again.”

Nayef Aguerd


Moving to a new club and country is a tall task for any player. But the challenge is only compounded by the added task of rehabilitation from a serious injury. 

After leaving the field against Rangers, Nayef spent many of his first days in England in a protective boot. After consultation with specialists in London, surgery followed to stabilise and re-align his ankle.

Still, it was tricky to interact normally in his new surroundings. For starters, Nayef was stuck in his hotel room.

“It was my first time in England,” Nayef adds. “It was difficult to adapt. I wanted to go to the gym because I had the pressure of the World Cup. And I wanted to play at West Ham too.”

With emotions running high, a player can often get lost. The road is long. The emotions and stakes are high. Even five months out, a World Cup appearance looked to be on the line. Support was also going to be crucial to his hopes of making Qatar.

"We always try to explain that the rehabilitation process is not a constant upward trend,” states Collinge. “We have good days and bad days. We are here to support the player when we have those dark days.”

As such, Aguerd credits the Player Care team and medical team at West Ham United for making the move to England as seamless as it could have been in the circumstances.

“With crutches, you cannot move much," the former Rennes defender adds, explaining that the Player Care team went above and beyond as they moved him into his new house. "I want to thank them and the Medical team here at West Ham. They both did a lot for me.”


After that, Aguerd continued his rehabilitation in Morocco. He worked at his national team's camp - a twenty minute drive from his hometown.

“It is very difficult when you come in the morning and everyone is on the pitch and you are in the gym alone,” Nayef adds. “So, I went to Morocco. I spent three weeks there – and trust me, it was not a holiday!"

Instead, Aguerd spent time with physios and his personal trainer. A bootcamp of sorts. A fitness schedule led by a defender focused on getting himself into the best shape possible for his return to east London.

“It was easier with my mum’s food," he adds, smiling about his love for his home nation. “I loved being at home – but with the injury, it is difficult [to live a normal life]. I spent a lot of time in the evening with my family and my friends trying to forgot about the injury.”


And so, east London would beckon once more, as the Académie Mohammed VI de football graduate would return to Rush Green after three weeks in Morocco. Here, he made further steps in his recovery under the watchful eye of the Hammers’ staff. 

As Aguerd made good progress in the gym, fans were later delighted to see photos of the new signing working on grass. But there was some slight apprehension as Nayef learnt to trust his body again.

“It was painful,” he adds, on his first training session. “My ankle felt very stiff. I kept asking the medical staff every day: 'Why this?' 'Why that?' Because I was so desperate to come back.

“I remember, during the first training session, when I made a small pass, everyone shouted: 'Good', 'welcome back'.

"I was very happy to be with the squad again. It helped me a lot."

We have to motivate that player and keep the player fresh mentality. We are always trying to find that balance. Hence, allowing Nayef to go to Morocco.
Richard Collinge

As the training intensified, Aguerd would make his debut for West Ham United in the coming weeks. A day before the Irons’ match with Silkeborg IF in the UEFA Europa Conference League, the Morocco defender was told the news. As it expected, he could not hide his delight.

“I had a very honest conversation [with David Moyes],” explains Aguerd. “I told him: ‘If I feel pain, I'll tell you but if I feel ready, I want to play’.

“When I saw I was starting, I was very happy. Not nervous, just happy."


A day later, Aguerd was walking out of the tunnel to make his first appearance at London Stadium. And, as the Morocco international lined up with his teammates, he reflected on the preceding months. The pain, the fight, and the struggle had been long – but the rewards were now in sight.

“I was both a new signing and also coming back from injury,” Nayef adds. "I was very emotional. I just wanted to show what I can do.”

And, he did. Composed on the ball, dominant in the air, and quick across the ground, the former Rennes defender made a good showing over an hour in east London. A debut victory, a clean sheet, and three points that secured direct qualification to the Round of 16 was not a bad way to make your first-team bow. 

As Aguerd left the field, there was one overwhelming feeling amongst the joy. 

“I was very tired,” he adds, smiling. “Those sixty minutes were enough for me to feel great on the pitch with my teammates and with the fans. It was very good.”

Aguerd later featured on two more occasions for the Hammers, before a Premier League debut against Leicester City came in the Irons' final fixture ahead of the FIFA World Cup. 

He was back for Club but now it was time for country.


Following a successful return to match action with West Ham over the past month, a delighted Aguerd was named in Morocco’s squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals. Under Walid Regragui, Morocco will face Belgium, Croatia and Canada in Group F.

“I am very proud,” the Kénitra-born centre-back said, on his call-up to what will be his first World Cup finals. 

“I worked very hard [to get to this point]. After an injury, you start to wonder and ask questions [if you are able to be ready]. “The Doctor told me 14 weeks to start on the pitch but in 12 weeks I was on the pitch.

“Before the injury, I was sure I would play with the national team. But then it is like a slap. You start to wonder and you ask a lot of questions. Everyone sends you messages on social media saying: ‘when are you coming back? We need you? We need you?"

When I was young, I was telling my mum that football can change my life it can be my job. She never agreed with this idea!
Nayef Aguerd

The pressure of a World Cup midway through the season has been a tall order for Nayef. But the 26-year-old knows it is an experience he will learn from.

“I have learned a lot," he adds, honestly. "Now, it is time for me to keep working.”

For Aguerd, that work will start in Qatar. A goal that looked out of reach just six months ago, is now firmly in sight.