This weekend saw the end of a love affair, between Dimitri Payet and West Ham United. It was a hot and heavy affair which, if we were all honest with ourselves, was always doomed for a messy breakup. All the while the English media and West Ham have made Payet out to be the villain of the piece, and whilst there are clear arguments for that, I would like to put forward a defence of Dmitri Payet.
The French international is 29 years old, having signed from Marseille for 10.7 million pounds in the summer of 2015. The midfielder leaves West Ham after 18 months, 11 league goals in 46 league game and having made the club a £15 million profit. Not terrible business if you can get it.
Dimitri Payet is a professional doing a job. He recently extended his contract with the club under a number of assurances, the key being that the club would support his brilliance with bringing in a top class striker. Why Payet believed that West Ham would have the pulling power to bring in such a player is beyond me, yes they were moving into a new stadium, but a stadium that is barely fit for purpose. West Ham brought in Simone Zaza on loan from Juve (famous for a missed penalty in the Euros and already out of the club), Jonathan Calleri (on a dodgy loan from Sao Paolo via Uruguay’s second division) and a Manchester United youth team player (Ashley Fletcher).
A note on Jonathan Calleri, I believe he has the ability to be a fine striker, performing well in the middle classes of the Premier league, but such is life in English football, his lack of time to settle and the demand for instant results has seen him written off as a bust.
Dimitri Payet is rightly furious as he is watching the back end of his prime (Assuming a footballers prime to be from 27 to roughly 31) being wasted in mid-table side, in a ground not fit for purpose with a manager who is notoriously hard on his players, with the likes of Andy Carroll and Simone Zaza to try and create opportunities for. This is a player who has just come back from playing for France in the Euros, being told a club will be built around him, one that can compete for Europe and he looks around in January and reality has hit home.
Payet is returning home. For many people in England, London is the centre of the universe. But this is not the case for everyone, and it appears to not be the case for Payet who is returning to the south of France, to a club sitting sixth in Ligue 1, just 4 points off of the final champions league spot. Payet is guaranteed European football next season, with a good chance of that being in the Champions League where, rightly or wrongly, he sees his talents belonging. He will be 30 in March and will be very aware that he has more days at the top behind him than ahead of him.
The manner in which Payet has allegedly sat out training and allegedly refused to play is terrible if true, however, I question the competence of his agent. You or I, if we’re unhappy in our job, wanting to move area, or feeling burned by promises being broken are able to break the contract and resign our position. Payet has in effect done this, whilst earning the club over £15m in the process. With a better agent, this transfer could have gone through in a much cleaner manner.
The money this transfer has generated could be used to put towards a marquee player, youth development or some squad depth. Knowing the way Gold and Sullivan like to waste money (see above) this may be part of where fans rage is coming from. The way the club is run has been mirrored perfectly in the way they have thrown digs at their former player. Payet has not acted like an angel in this matter, but would you? Watching your best years being wasted in front of you.
Like sitting in a dead end marriage, Payet saw a chance to get back with his ex. An ex who he had split up with on good terms. The ex he thought about as the hot and heavy romance began to cool. When there was a chance to get back together he leapt at it. Deep down, can you really blame him?