As the dust had already settled on Dimitri Payet's return to Marseille for £25 million during the January transfer window, it might be considered poor judgement to reignite the ill feeling that still exists in the East End about the whole debacle. Unfortunately, Payet himself seems to have done just that with an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe.
Citing his reasons for leaving West Ham as "boredom," Payet has scratched a wound best left alone, and Hammers-related social media has gone into meltdown as a result. Claiming he was "going backwards as a player," Payet has effectively hit back at co-owner David Gold who accused the France international of a "betrayal" following the player's refusal to play for West Ham.
Though it makes for good headlines, Payet's explanations for his behaviour at West Ham simply don't ring true. The player might have been frustrated at the Hammers missing out on an automatic European place at the end of last season; the 29-year-old might even have become less than enamoured with the club's dealing in the transfer market last summer. What is clear, though, is that in saying that "Slaven Bilic knew I wanted to go elsewhere. We discussed it when I returned from Euro 2016," Payet is effectively admitting his disillusionment with life in London began before the season even kicked off.
So Payet might have been dismayed at the Hammers' early season form later, might even have worried about scuffling along in the lower half of the table, but none of that would have been apparent last August when he met Bilic.
"I could have gone to war last summer. August was badly managed" are hardly the words of a player who had grown frustrated at what looked like a relegation scrap in early December. In fact, with that sentence, Payet unwittingly admitted what most supporters feared when the midfielder brought crowds to their feet in France last summer. Payet was never going to be happy holding a mid-table side together while the club attempted to build around him. The only surprise is that the player ever thought he should make London his home for 18 months.
It's unfortunate, then, that Payet should speak of the lucky 1-0 win over Hull. It was the Dec. 17 game in which the post came to the Hammers' rescue four times; It was also the game where the team's fortunes turned. It was never the match where Payet realised, as he claims, that he was in the wrong place; that had occurred six months earlier. Instead, supporters will look at the laughable comment, "I worked hard in every game." Payet's lack of desire and commitment was evident from his return from Euro 2016. In many ways, the Frenchman might have crossed the Channel, but his mind never did.
As it was known that Payet's family had trouble settling in London -- a reason for a transfer request most fans would have understood -- the puzzle is why the player should choose to make more of the bad feeling. As the move home might have come sooner rather than later anyway, it seems odd that the star of France's run to the European final should want to stir things up further.
As happens so often in football, the fan is left to rue that odd combination of genius and frustration that often besets the very best players. With his skill and ability to create chances, Payet should not have left West Ham for Marseille; Real Madrid, Barcelona or certainly Paris Saint-Germain should have been his destination. Even with the player effectively going on strike, though, none of the bigger European powerhouses moved for him. Events this season have made it clear why. His career cannot be said to be over, certainly, but when Payet speaks of going backward as a player, perhaps he is missing the point.
At West Ham, Payet could have built himself a legacy that would have survived beyond his transitional career as a player. Instead, hiding behind half-truths, Payet has shown a lack of character that has surely hampered his career thus far and may prove to be a stumbling block for the future. Perhaps the most damning aspect of Payet's stay in East London comes in his closing comment. "For a year and a half, West Ham gave me a great deal and I'll never forget that."
Ultimately, a good deal is the comment that surely sums up what really interests Dimitri Payet.