On Thursday morning, West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic confirmed the suspicions of many by revealing that star man Dimitri Payet is intent on leaving the club, a fact which reflects badly on the player himself, as well as representing yet another setback in what has been a frustrating campaign for the Londoners up until now.
Last term the Frenchman lit up the Premier League, delivering a number of starring contributions as West Ham finished an excellent seventh place and were among the division’s great entertainers. Some of what he produced was almost out of this world, most notably a succession of breathtaking free-kicks.
Indeed, rarely has an overseas player had such an effect during their first season in the English top-flight, and so, aware of the interest that would inevitably arise, the Hammers tied him down to a new long-term contract. But that speculation has refused to go away, especially following his displays for France at Euro 2016, where he helped them to the final.
Collectively, West Ham have, this time around, performed way below the standards they set for themselves last season. Their play has been disjointed and laborious as they have struggled to adapt to playing home games at the somewhat less intimidating London Stadium, and Payet has failed to hit the heights on a regular basis.
There have of course been the occasional flash of brilliance, such as the fine solo goal that earned a point against Middlesbrough, or the extravagant ‘rabona’ cross which allowed Michail Antonio to score at home to Watford, but by and large the 29-year-old has been subdued. Some have suggested – not unreasonably – that his body language has been that of a player who is not particularly interested in fighting for the cause.
Should Payet be showing more respect to West Ham? He should certainly credit them for resurrecting his career, and allowing him to showcase the full extent of his talent after an injury-hit spell at Marseille. The adulation he received throughout last season seems to have been long forgotten by the player himself, and there is clearly a feeling lurking within his mind that he has outgrown the club.
Despite Bilic’s insistence that Payet will not be sold, one does have to wonder if there is way back for him from here, as it has been made clear that he will not feature again for the first-team until his attitude improves. For a player of such quality, and carrying the status that he does at West Ham, it could hardly be beneficial to the atmosphere among the squad, especially when they are struggling for results.
Payet is clearly a player capable of great things, and he has proven that time and again for both club and country. However, his attitude will have left a bitter taste in the mouth among West Ham supporters, so unless he changes his mental approach it appears that the best solution for all parties is for him to leave the club, which would make for a sad end for a player who has provided plenty of memorable moments.