Dimitri Payet has let West Ham down: that’s been the overriding narrative of the past few days. The Frenchman has downed tools and is now training away from the club’s other first-team players, with a transfer away from the East End of London looking like the only sane outcome before the close of the transfer window – even if the Hammers have, at least publically, maintained their stance that he will not be sold.
Granted, Payet’s actions leave a bitter taste. The vast sums of money the he earns on a monthly basis are unimaginable for the average punter passing through the turnstiles at the London Stadium to watch their team partake in the sport they hold so dearly, so to see a man openly flout the advantageous position he’s in isn’t overly edifying. However, for all the talk of Payet letting West Ham down, maybe it’s the club that have actually let the player down.
Before you zoom to the comment section to hurl abuse in my direction or quickly hit that little cross at the top of your browser window, just look at the mess the Irons are in. The summer just passed was a golden opportunity for the club, one in which they could have pushed on and built on all they achieved last term. Okay, Champions League qualification was the ultimate ceiling they could push for – and surely miss – but that wouldn’t have made for a bad season. The way the campaign has gone thus far, though, really reflects the mistakes they have made.
The off-season was akin to a desperate episode of Supermarket Sweep in which the club journeyed around Europe offering cash for just about any forward willing to give them a second glance before belatedly settling for Simone Zaza. The Italian has already been written off and cast back to Juventus, who have, in turn, shipped him to Valencia. After that, the London Stadium move showed an alarming lack of organisation and the club’s transfer business has been repeatedly leaked into the press – not a positive at all when Hull’s key player, Robert Snodgrass, has been the subject of an insulting £5m offer.
But, this is about Payet, not the false dawn at West Ham. On the back of his Euro 2016 heroics, we’re sure that the now 29-year-old would have had his pick of clubs from across continent. It could be argued that West Ham didn’t need to sell, but that hand was never forced as Payet himself clearly decided to give the ‘project’ in the capital a go, which he now, evidently, regrets.
And he’s right to regret it. After all, the Hammers failed to take advantage of the situation they found themselves in – European competition, a new stadium and having one of the most exciting players in Europe in their XI – which is exactly why they are where they are now. Payet deserves better.
Had they been a bit more methodical in the approach they could have laid the groundwork for a deal to sign a player like Carlos Bacca or Alexandre Lacazette. They could have also identified the areas of weakness in their squad, such as centre-back and right-back, which are now being filled by players either not fully suited to the tasks they’re being asked to perform or are just not of the required standard.
It’s not about the money for Payet, as has been revealed by Ligue 1 expert, Julien Laurens, who has lifted the lid (via Radio 5Live) on the Reunion-born playmaker’s desire to rejoin Marseille, who are keen to offer him a route back to France:
“He still hasn’t settled, his family hasn’t settled, the children are not happy in school here his wife isn’t happy either.
“They all went back to France, they’re already looking at houses and schools.
“I keep hearing about ‘mercenaries’ but Payet will take a pay cut to go back to Marseille. It’s not about the money, the money has nothing to do with it.
“He’s not gong to China where you can double or triple your salary. He’s ready to take a pay-cut.
“Marseille and Payet have already reached an agreement so it’s all sorted to go back there.”
There we have it. Payet’s motivation is not financial and, chances are, he would have made more of an effort to push through this difficult period in his life had the club been performing to a better level. That is, of course, an opinion. But not so long ago he signed a new contract worth a mooted £125,000-per-week, so things haven’t always been sour. It seems as if the factors have all snowballed together.
The only plausible outcome is Payet heading back to the south of France. There’s every chance, as Laurens says, that l’OM will come nearer to West Ham’s £30m valuation and it’s just insane for the club to keep their most valuable asset rotting away in the reserves and poisoning the atmosphere due to his unhappiness.
And West Ham only have themselves to blame. It’ll be the fans, as ever, that suffer, but the finger needs to be pointed at the men and women running the club, not at the first major casualty of the wasted summer of 2015, which could yet unravel the work of Slaven Bilic and his players on the pitch.