Filed: Friday, 13th January 2017
By: Paul Walker
So our little French darling has got just what he wants, having pushed Slaven Bilic into a corner by stepping way beyond the line of acceptable, professional behaviour.
But this is such an obviously, agent inspired piece of choreography that it would have done justice to Strictly, just how perfectly planned has been this process.
When a player refuses to play for a team, the manager has no choice but to ban him from the club or he loses the respect and commitment of the rest of the side.
Dimitri Payet’s final stab into Bilic’s heart has provoked the only result possible, and that being he will now be sold as quickly as possible because his position has been very intentionally made untenable with club and fans by his action. Dimi can never play for the club again.
This has hurt Slav because he has been massaging egos, tap-dancing his way around a very difficult situation for many weeks now to try to keep Payet sweet, while knowing deep down that he is fighting a losing battle.
Payet will be gone from the London Stadium (I almost put the Boleyn there) by the end of the transfer window, by making him stay around you have a serious problem. He has, by the conditions of his contract, got to be given access to training facilities.
So if you do try to hang on until the summer, when his transfer value will have dropped even further, you run the risk of him being able to continue to poison morale of all around him.
Bilic cannot afford that, so he has had to admit defeat. The rest of the squad, those still training and battling hard, will have got pretty sick of the pampered treatment by now, and it would be easy to say that the Payet issue has caused enough trouble and conflict in the ranks already to have put our general performances on the pitch this season very much into perspective.
Anyone who has seen Payet this season knows he has not been trying his best. One brilliant goal against Middlesbrough, one curling free-kick at Liverpool, and the rest has been patchy.
Where the statisticians get the facts about the chances he has created heaven know. Does that mean every corner and free-kick, every forward pass? You tell me. He has been a shadow of last season’s form and the amount of times he has sulked away to the fringes of matches has been a disgrace.
I first noticed it at Everton, when he was given a good kicking by Seamus Coleman and started to retreat and try really daft passes, showboating, out of defence. It cost a goal.
Then there was the FA Cup tie at Manchester United when he actually stopped playing and started to remonstrate with Bilic from distance. He was hauled off. This was so obvious from the away section high up in the rafters at Old Trafford.
Here was a player who couldn’t care less. Bilic has staked his job, almost, on getting Payet to toe the line. The offer of more time off because he was tired from the Euros, then more time off training because of the same pressure. Then, seemingly, a gentleman’s agreement that he would see out the season and be sold in the summer.
But none of that was good enough for Payet, hence the last, final, act. To refuse to play for the club. Bilic was backed into a hole, with no alternative. And Payet, and his agents and advisors , have now got their way. There are now claims he has marriage problems, who knows.
But refusing to play is the one act that fellow professional cannot stand. But it has dramatic consequences. Payet now has to be sold and he will march away on a bigger contract somewhere else. He will be public enemy number one for only a few weeks, and he can take the heat until the next deal comes along.
What does surprise me is that so many people are surprised by all this. It goes on all the time, but rarely this public. Bilic, though, knows he could be on borrowed time if the current form continues, so he was not prepared to protect and pussyfoot around Payet any longer.
He wants his team now to respond. To fight and work and win matches. Initially Bilic said he wanted the player to have a change of heart, to knuckle down and abide by whatever private agreement had been struck.
I must admit, I would love to hear David Sullivan’s phone conversations now with Payet‘s backers. The accusation of being “tapped up” is flying about. Heaven forbid.
Every club does that, either via family members, agents, old colleagues or even journalists. I know one such fella in the north who has made a career out of tapping players for clubs, and then writing about it in the media. It goes on all the time.
Then there is shock, horror, claims that Payet has already discussed terms with Marseille. I would never have guessed.
I recall seeing quotes a few weeks back from France with Marseille coach Rudi Garcia suggesting he had persuaded Payet to return to the club. Marseille’s president is supposed to have Payet’s number on speed dial.
But before we get all high and mighty, think back to when Payet arrived here. One of his advisers is reputed to have told Marseille that Payet had already agreed terms with West Ham.
And the only reason he signed at all is because the French club needed the money desperately as their previous owners floundered toward bankruptcy.
This all started when Marseille had failed to qualify for the Champions League and their players had wage reductions in their contracts, including Payet. He argued for a new, improved, contract which was not forthcoming.
The 'will he or won’t he sign for us' went on right to the brink, with Payet desperate for Marseille to give him a new deal. They wouldn’t, so he came to London.
Sullivan’s go-to agent, Mark Mackay, France-based, facilitated that deal, and has boasted since that he saved West Ham £10m because of the financial state Marseille were in, and how near they were to financial collapse. They just needed the money.
So Marseille now have new, rich owners and want their man back. The way they were mugged off last time suggests they will have little sympathy for us now. And they think they have the whip hand because Payet says he only wants to return to their club.
Hence the £20m bid, rejected this week, that prompted the player’s showdown with Bilic. Marseille believe they can get away with a low bid because they are the only gig in town.
West Ham may have to swallow a bit to get a lot more, and that will only come from within the Premier League. Payet says he is homesick and has a back injury (more a pain in the neck to Bilic). So if West Ham get a big offer from say, Chelsea, £40m or so, what does the player do?
Chelsea can double wages. I wonder just how homesick he will feel with that one. All that, of course, ignores the fact that he knows how to behave as a professional whatever the problems are he has at home.
But we knew what we were getting into. Payet did not just come down from the Gods when we went for him. Everyone knew what he was like. Arsene Wenger put it well by saying "he lacks mentality". Brains to you and me.
Wenger knew all about him, and didn’t try to sign him. Nobody else did either. Payet has had “attitude” problems with Le Havre, Nantes, St.Etienne and Marseille before we came along. This is why he was still messing about in the French League at 28, all that talent and a character the big clubs wouldn’t trust.
You may also recall that he had been dumped by the French manager because of his lack of effort when not in possession. There is a story of how Payet once punched a club skipper after a row over him being lazy on the pitch and in training.
Last season we got away with this because Payet wanted to perform, he wanted to be in the Euros and he had Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate to do his running for him. He was also something of a surprise package.
Not so this season with Premier League sides having spent a lot of time working out how to nullify his talent. Double and treble-marked, facing a high press, and even those free kicks are not as dangerous now clubs have worked out how best to set up their walls to counter what Payet can do.
He wanted a pay rise before the season started following his exploits in the Euros, which he didn’t get just six months after signing a new five year contract on £125,000 a week, the highest paid player in our history.
So he started the season with the hump, and it has just got worse. Bilic has a right to feel let down, he knows the talent and knows that if he is in the mood, Payet can win games for us like he did last season.
But this time around we have seen his truer colours, the behaviour that became common place in France. But he has to go, he has let his club, manager and us fans down. Such a shame. He will get a big new deal somewhere, and his galaxy of agents and advisors will all benefit, just like they did when his arrival here was engineered in the first place.
West Ham call this situation a lose-lose one for them. For Payet and the agents it’s a win-win one for them. So bye bye Dimi… ”who are you, who are you?”
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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