Dimitri Payet was one of the standout players of the 2015-16 Premier League campaign, and a key contributor to West Ham’s remarkable seventh-place finish. The silky attacker went on to become a pivotal cog in France’s charge to the Euro 2016 final, and attracted interest from a number of top clubs.
At the time, West Ham were preparing to move into their new stadium and seemed like a team on the up, so the playmaker pledged his allegiance to the club by signing a new five-year deal. The Irons’ campaign is in disarray now, though, and if an elite club can come in with enough money to pry Payet away from the Olympic Stadium, the midfielder may well jump from Slaven Bilic’s sinking ship.
Recent reports from the Daily Star suggest that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has earmarked Payet as his top priority in the January transfer window. The man who made 13 assists in the league last season (see below) could be the ideal creator to supply Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the teasing aerial balls the Swede thrives on. A switch could turn out to be beneficial for both parties; United need that inventive spark, and Payet needs to get back on top after a recent slump.
The move to the Olympic Stadium seems to have cursed West Ham this season, and nothing is going right for Bilic or his players. Although research from Voucherbox has found that Hammers fans can watch a home game for less than any other supporters in the league, the fans are surely missing the menacing threat that the Boleyn Ground imposed on visiting teams. The players certainly don’t feel as though they have a home advantage at the moment, partly due to the fact that they haven’t settled in yet, but the running track that distances the fans from the pitch is also a factor. This gap makes for a far less threatening atmosphere.
Bilic will be desperate to hang on to Payet in the transfer window, as the Frenchman could be the key to helping the Irons claw their way back up the table and away from the threat of relegation. With Andy Carroll finally back from injury, the 29-year-old will have a lethal target man to get on the end of his crosses. In West Ham’s favour, penning a new deal with the player earlier in the year to tie him to the club for the next five years was a smart move. The London club are under no pressure to sell.
On the other side of the coin, Payet has looked a shell of last season’s player in this campaign, and if a club comes in with a big enough offer then it could actually be beneficial to West Ham to offload the Frenchman. It would free up funds to move in for a prolific striker, and the Irons have been linked with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge in recent months.
The ideal scenario for Bilic would be to keep hold of Payet, revitalise the player, and get the whole side psychologically set to perform in their new surroundings. But the way West Ham’s season has gone so far, January could spell a time of even more chaos and uncertainty.