Dimitri Payet’s exit from West Ham during the January transfer was stressful to say the least. Once Slaven Bilic made it clear Payet had expressed his wish not to play for West Ham again, it was only a matter of time before he left.
The club’s owners had repeatedly insinuated they’d put their foot down and refuse to sell Payet, but even from the beginning that seemed like a bargaining stance. West Ham got more money out of Marseille than the French club wanted to pay, and everyone ended up feeling like they’d won a little and lost a little.
French newspaper L’Equipe was at the forefront of the reporting, breaking the story in the first place, and it is they who have managed an interview with the former West Ham player.
Payet was asked to expand on his West Ham exit: “I warned them that I was going to do it and maybe they didn’t take me seriously. I told them straight in the eyes I would assume the consequences of my actions. Slaven Bilic knew that I had desires elsewhere.
“Already at the beginning of the season, when I went out of the Euro, we had discussed it. The club had closed the door. I respected that choice. But the sporting situation worsened. In January, I told him I wanted to leave for Marseille and not elsewhere, asking him to pass the message to the leaders. The day he told me that it was not final and I told him I no longer would play for West Ham.”
The France international insists his teammates at West Ham understood his situation, rather than turning against him: “Most of my former teammates understood my behaviour… even if the form was rather brutal. West Ham players have even supported me, and there are still those who congratulated me for my goal against Lorient.”
About the West Ham fans who had once adored him, Payet said: “It’s normal. They hated me as much as they loved me. That’s why the reactions were as violent. I cannot blame them. For a year and a half, they have given a lot to me and I will never forget.”
Payet is slowly finding his feet at Marseille but whether he can recreate that famous season he had for West Ham is another thing altogether. Without the motivation of an unlikely Euro 2016 call-up, Payet doesn’t seem the same player. Perhaps Marseille fans can look forward to his form in the run up to the 2018 World Cup.