This time last season Dimitri Payet could do no wrong. He was adored by the West Ham United fans and was well on his way to earning his place in the France squad as Euro 2016 rapidly approached.
Twelve months on and Payet will never be welcomed back at West Ham after forcing through a return to Marseille in the January transfer window, with the player refusing to play for manager Slaven Bilic in order to force a return home to France.
In February 2016 Payet signed a new five-year contract with the Hammers, which gave the player a significant pay rise, believed to be double the money he was previously on. But less than a year later he wanted out.
Speaking to L’Equipe (the Daily Mirror) Payet’s latest comments will not heal the rift between himself and all associated with West Ham any time soon.
“I no longer wanted to play in a team at the bottom of the Premier League. Our way of approaching matches, I didn’t like the defensive system put in place.
“Playing 4-5-1, I could have all the liberty in the world – it was complicated to express myself. You can say I was bored, yes.
“I was going through matches without any pleasure. Then I had contact with Marseille, especially with Rudi Garcia who has a philosophy I know well. The choice was quick. If I had waited six months, I was losing six months.
“I didn’t hesitate. With West Ham at home against Hull (on December 17) we won 1-0 and they hit the woodwork four times.
“In the changing room, everyone was pleased but the man of the match that day had been the post. I thought I would not progress anymore.
“On the contrary, I took the risk of going backwards. I needed another challenge.”
Payet’s comments are sure to enrage his former manager and teammates, with many fans claiming the club gave the player the chance to become the player he is today. After spending years in France failing to make the breakthrough at international level, many believe the 29-year-old would not have gone to last summer’s Euros but for West Ham giving him a platform to display his talents.
Professional football is a short-term gig and Payet, while he may be thankful for the opportunity West Ham gave him, is not afraid to upset those who once loved him for the good of his career.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena