“We have a problem with a player… It’s Dimitri Payet. He wants to leave the club.”
These are words that haunt West Ham fans today. It was January of 2016, and star attacker Dimitri Payet demanded a move back to his previous club Marseille of Ligue 1 in France. The move not only upset West Ham fans, it betrayed them. Their star player who had brought so much magic to the final season at Upton Park saw his team struggling at the Olympic Stadium and that, compacted with personal issues, saw him force a move away from West Ham with a play strike.
“We’ve got Payet” quickly turned to “Fuck off Payet” at West Ham matches. His car was vandalized, and his name became a synonym for snake. Across social media West Ham supporters would comment “snake” or add emojis to any post that had him in it, or comment his name if the content mentioned a snake – me included. I was heartbroken – WE we’re heartbroken. Payet was that signature player; he led the Hammers offensively and helped make the team more entertaining to watch. It was a catastrophic loss.
West Ham have struggled since his departure, finishing bottom half of the table and being in some serious relegation battles twice in the last two seasons. Lanzini has had to step up as the next midfield maestro and playmaker and has done a solid job, garnering rumoured interest from clubs like Liverpool and Barcelona while earning international call ups. However, the talent Payet possesses is generational, and while Lanzini is (despite injury) on the track to rival that talent, Payet could and would walk onto West Ham as it stands now.
However, the West Ham Payet left is not the current team. Most notably West Ham made a massive splash attracting top manager Manuel Pellegrini to lead the team forward. He is experienced in the Premier League and globally, and is a name that hold a lot more weight than any one player on the team. It wouldn’t be Payet’s team the Frenchman would be coming back to, he would just be filling a need for his manager in Lanzini’s injury absence.
My opinion on the matter is outlined here. These are the stipulations I would have met in order to bring back Dimitri Payet:
- I WOULD take him back
- I would not pay a cent more than the £30 million he was sold for
- His wages would match his previous wages, and be heavily made up of appearance bonuses (50/50?)
- He would need to apologize to the fans of the club for abandoning them the way he did
- He would need to tell and explain the situation that made him force his move away
- I would need to see Pellegrini stating he wants the player
- I would need to see Mark Noble back the signing
Lastly, and it deserves more than one point in a arbitrary fan made list of demands, is an apology for then West Ham manager Slaven Bilic. Bilic was his manager at West Ham and helped give the fans and the Boleyn the send off that historic ground deserved. He has had his credibility as a manager slashed since Payet left, and with that departure from West Ham came the inevitable sacking of Bilic as club manager. Payet didn’t think about the wake left behind when he abandoned West Ham, and Bilic’s career has become a symptom of that.
There is some criticism from West Ham supporters surrounding the player and his return. Firstly his age. Payet would return to West Ham 31 years old, and for some this is a non-starter. A quick reminder would be that Paulo Di Canio joined West Ham at age 30 and played for five years at the club with great success. 30 is easy to circle as a ‘best before’ age, but that simply isn’t the case for everyone.
Secondly there is concern that Payet is injury ridden, specifically after his inability to play much of the Europa League final due to injury. To that I say Payet played 47 games last season across all competitions for Marseille. Is there concern for injury, sure. But, no more than there is with any other player.
Lastly is the concern that “he’s fallen off” and “isn’t what he used to be”. Its understandable that West Ham fans are protective of their passed time with Payet, but he scored 10 goals and added 24 assists last season for Marseille. For perspective that puts him second only to Arnautovic for goals (11) and puts him first by in inconceivable 17 assists over Aaron Cresswell who had 7.
So would I have him back? In a heartbeat. The transition wouldn’t be easy, and West Ham would likely take a lot of heat from their own supporters and Premier League fans from other teams. But the second he dips a free kick over the wall into the top corner, or rabona crosses a goal to Arnautovic and throws up the hammers memories will be cleared.
So, West Ham fans, are we ready to bring him back?