sports gazette

Dimitri Payet - The Perils of a Late Bloomer

Published: 12 Jan 2017

Today an emotional Slaven Bilic confirmed the club’s talismanic playmaker Dimitri Payet no longer wishes to play for them.

In the initial fallout of Bilic's press conference, West Ham fans appear divided in their feelings towards the renegade Frenchman. Sports Gazette takes a closer look at both perspectives – has Payet been let down by West Ham or should he bare more responsibility for their current poor league standing?

The lack of exposure afforded to the less glamorous Ligue 1 in recent years has resulted in Payet remaining a well-kept secret until his late twenties.

Payet has also demonstrated petulant behaviour in his youth, namely fighting with fellow St. Etienne teammate Blaise Matuidi and engineering transfers when dissatisfied by his employers. No this is not a first West Ham fans.

The final element of Payet's past that enabled a club of West Ham's stature to sign him relates to Olympique de Marseille's former owner, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus. The Russian-born Swiss billionaire had grown disinterested with the club and with L'OM stranded in debt she was forced to sell assets or inject cash. Subsequently, Payet was sold to West Ham for a mere £10.7million.

In 2015 Payet was coming off the back of two seasons as one of the highest performers in European football registering a tremendous volume of assists and scoring highlight free-kicks.

Those following Marcelo Bielsa's Marseille would have recognised Payet as the architect of this fledgling side. Indeed, had American Frank McCourt purchased L'OM a year or two earlier, the Argentine would have likely stayed along with such stars as Andre Ayew, Dimitri Payet, Giannelli Imbula, and Michy Batschuayi.

Marseille’s loss was West Ham’s gain as Payet took the 2015-16 Premier League season by storm and elevating his game as a stand out star Internationally at 2016 – a tournament his side should have won.

Where has it all gone wrong and is Payet right to leave?

In his time at West Ham, Payet has proved himself a highly emotional animal. His relationship with the fans remains a thing of beauty with tears being shed in both claret and the blue of France.

Payet’s performances and passion resulted in his five-year contract being renewed only six months after he signed with a new whopping £125k per week and an option for an extra year in 2021.

As West Ham completed their move to the Olympic Stadium, Payet was seen as their lightning rod for attracting world-class talent to play alongside him. However, the summer of 2016 resulted in the exact opposite as Owners David Gold, and David Sullivan talked a good game linking the club with the likes of Carlos Bacca at Milan and Alexandre Lacazette of Olympique Lyonnais but failing to land either.

As the new season got underway it was evident to West Ham had not capitalised on the summer transfer window signing Ashley Fletcher for free and Simone Zaza (whose deal heaped tremendous pressure on him with a permanent €20m deal being triggered after a specific number of appearances).

With current strikers, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho permanent injury concerns, the club also broke their transfer record to land Swansea forward Andre Ayew. However, Ayew is not a striker by trade and cynics suggest his relationship with Payet was a large reason behind his arrival as a means of pacifying the temperamental Frenchman.

West Ham’s attempts to bolster their midfield and defence in the summer were equally ineffective with many believing that the current owners simply do not have the funds needed to sit at the high stakes table of the Premier League.

In essence, the argument for Payet's frustration is that the club has not honoured their promises and taken the club forward with the necessary additional resources. Statistically, Payet's form is on par with last season, but for anyone who studies body language, it's also quite clear that his overall game has suffered.
Another angle in defence of Payet’s actions is that he turns 30 in March and that he simply doesn’t want to fade away at West Ham. At present, Zinedine Zidane remains the world's most expensive 29-year-old but in today's day of inflated transfer fees; it is conceivable that Payet could break his fellow countryman's record.

Ultimately, there is a pattern to Payet’s behaviour with his latest outburst appearing cyclical in nature

While being rewarded with a new revised contract, it's hard to imagine that it included specific clauses as to the nature or name of players the club had to sign and for that reason, it's hard to support Payet's frustrations.

Payet's age is also not an appropriate justification for his recent actions. It would appear that his lack of application as a younger player in France resulted in his status as a late bloomer. Furthermore, his style of play is such that his foot speed is not likely to fade anytime soon, hence West Ham rewarding him with such a lengthy contract.

Ultimately, there is a pattern to Payet’s behaviour with his latest outburst appearing cyclical in nature leaving Bilic well within his rights to publically name and shame his star player.

West Ham now face an awkward reunion with once vilified former manager Sam Allardyce this weekend and with no Payet to call upon. Beyond surviving the week, there are only a few weeks left of the January transfer window, and a bigger challenge will be what to do with their want away maestro.

Bilic previously shamed his squad’s efforts in training following their pathetic capitulation to Arsenal and today’s outburst follows an equally humbling display to Manchester City.

On a brighter note, West Ham can now identify the problem regarding training and morale, and perhaps the loss of a player could result in the birth of actual team.

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