“We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet, I just don’t think you understand….,” is a refrain that won’t ever be heard in or around the London Stadium again.
As Upton Park is turned to dust, so are the dreams of thousands of West Ham supporters who had religiously deified their French demi-god but now see him as nothing more than the devil incarnate.
At just £11m, Payet was signed by the Hammers from Marseille. A player of such obvious talent but one who no one else had wanted – it was too good to be true wasn’t it?
Clearly the east Londoners hadn’t done full due diligence on the then 28-year-old because if they had, it was clear that Payet had a history of disciplinary issues.
His motivation in training was questioned at the best of times, Marcelo Bielsa even dropping him as recently as six months before his move to West Ham because of the same. At St. Etienne in 2011, he refused to train because he wanted a move to PSG which, ultimately, didn’t happen. Slaven Bilic and Co. therefore can’t argue that they didn’t see their current situation coming but by going on strike and refusing to play, Payet has taken things up another level.
A survey carried out since the Frenchman’s stance has come to light has seen 89% of Hammers fans wanting him out immediately. The same fans that were marvelling at his every move just a few weeks ago, in the way they had for Paolo Di Canio a decade before or Sir Trevor Brooking some years back.
Ah yes, Brooking…the ultimate one-club man. The Ryan Giggs of his day. Both players of substance and of loyalty. Ditto Tony Adams, Francesco Totti, John Terry. Say what you like about the Chelsea captain’s temperament and character but you can’t deny the ‘Mr Chelsea’ moniker is well deserved. Someone that you shake hands with and you know the job’s a good ‘un.
Some might suggest that sticking with one club or at least showing loyalty over the period of time to your employer is a weakness. That the club have you exactly where they want you, leaving agents no room for negotiation.
But Payet had pocketed a £1m loyalty bonus (!!) just three weeks before downing tools and telling West Ham that he was unsettled and wished for a return to Marseille.
A wholly predictable scenario was then played out for all to see. “He’s not for sale at any price,” “We can’t afford to sell our best players,” “He won’t train,” “He’s a toxic presence at the training ground.” It’s a dance that every club does in order to assuage the supporters that they’re doing everything in their power to keep hold of a player when the truth is far from that. The reality is that it’s a neat PR ploy to get to the point – as West Ham have now – when public opinion swerves wildly and leaves the club ‘in the clear.’
Payet will now be sold and probably at less than market value but the masses won’t care. Had they got rid six months ago after an excellent Euro 2016 for the player, there’s every reason to think that the Hammers might’ve got somewhere close to double what they will at this juncture. The difference being that back then, the weight of public moaning and opinion that West Ham continue to be a ‘selling club’ would’ve overshadowed their move to the London Stadium.
That Payet is even allowed to get away with such action in this day and age is quite remarkable and, frankly, entirely disrespectful not just to his employers but also to all of those thousands who pay their hard earned cash every fortnight to worship the ground he walks on. What it shows us is that player power is still very much in vogue and there’s little that club’s or managers can do.
When the Frenchman pitched up in East London he wasn’t quite an unknown, but he was certainly a 28-year-old whose career was heading in a downward spiral rather than an ascent. West Ham gave him what’s turned out to be nothing more than a launch pad for furthering his career elsewhere and a contract essentially worth nothing.
Players aren’t being held to account by the Premier League either which would make them think twice before attempting to hold everyone to ransom with such behaviour. It’s about time the EPL, the Football League and the Football Association et al started standing shoulder to shoulder with their member clubs and put a stop to this circus.
With Chinese money being thrown around like confetti it’s surely only a matter of time before other players dig their heels in Payet-style.
Unimaginable riches await them but what price loyalty?