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Who can resist the bright lights of Paris? Not West Ham United forward Dimitri Payet, that’s for sure. Linked with a move to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain before the international break, this is not the first time the Frenchman has been a target for the capital club.
Back in 2010, Payet was playing for Saint-Etienne, his second top flight club. The explosive forward had scored eight goals before the winter break and long before the arrival of QSI, they were rumoured to be interested in his signature.
VISIT TO PARIS
On the final day of the January transfer window, it was understood that Payet had left southern France on a TGV to the French capital. The 20-year-old was spotted in the city, but a final day move to PSG failed to materialise and he had to return, tail between his legs to Les Verts.
The amazing part came next. Rather than disgruntle the fans by admitting he wanted a move, he spun a web of excuses, explaining that he wasn’t in Paris for transfer talks, but he was there as a tourist, checking out the Eiffel Tower. This was before the days of Instagram, so there’s no selfie proof to back up his tall tale.
Luckily for Saint-Etienne it didn’t affect his form and Payet would go on to score another five times before the end of the season. He finished the campaign with 13 goals and four assists and interest in his signature would peak that summer.
Lille OSC were the Champions of France, surprising Olympique de Marseille and Bordeaux to lift their first title in 57 years. With Champions League football in mind, Payet moved north, but only changed trains in Paris this time on the way to Lille.
Knee injury hampered his first season, allowing Liverpool loanee Joe Cole to make a minor impact, however, once back fit, Payet’s rise was spectacular. His shooting wasn’t at its current high level, but he managed to score 12 goals and add 12 assists during the 2012/13 campaign in what was a post-Eden Hazard, struggling LOSC team.
Something that is clear from Payet’s career so far, he is not as loyal as fans would probably hope. He fled Lille as soon as results slipped. Marseille had no real choice but to sell, and now, with West Ham United faltering, questions over his future have been raised. Not helped by what he told French magazine show Telefoot.
“Leave West Ham this winter? For the moment, I'm asking myself other questions,” Payet admitted. “As we're 16th [now 17th], I think we're first going to try and get into a better position. I've always said I'm an ambitious person, so I don't close the door to anything but, in October, it's not even a question for me.
“Up to now, I've always chosen my clubs based on the sporting project. That's how I work. As long as I can play at a certain level, that's what I'll do.”
He’s not exactly suggesting he wants to leave, but at the same time, he’s not nailing his colours to the mast and declaring he’s forever blowing bubbles.
In terms of who could make a move, that’s where the story picks up a little pace. Paris Saint-Germain are now the only club in France that could afford him. We are not entirely sure the spending power that OM now has since they were taken over by American businessman Frank McCourt – that will be revealed in January – but it’s unlikely they will be able to match what West Ham offers.
At 29 years old, English Champions League clubs will be put off by a) his form this season, and b) how much they would have to pay the London club. However, PSG do need something in attack. They may have climbed to joint-second in the table, but have been far from convincing.
Bringing in someone of Payet’s quality, mixing up the attack and providing Unai Emery with another option on either the left or the right, would certainly appeal to the champions. Also, playing at West Ham, he is not cup-tied from appearing in the Champions League. At this stage, it may be the only path the France international has of playing on Europe’s biggest stage.
FORM IS TEMPORARY
Despite missing the start of the season, only Payet’s goal numbers have really dropped this term. Last year he was spectacular, capturing the imagination of the fans at the Boleyn Ground. Looking at West Ham’s position in the table could suggest that he is not playing as well, but his statistics suggest otherwise.
Although he has just one goal, putting him on course for his worse scoring form since 2010, he does have four assists. He is attempting more shots per game, up at 3.2 from 2.3. More key passes, from 4 to 4.4 this season and is making more dribble attempts, from 2.2 to 3.1 per game.
Payet is making more passes, his crosses and long balls per game are around the same. What has dropped is his defensive numbers. He is making 0.4 less tackles per game, that’s down 50% from last season, and his interceptions are down to 0.3 from 0.8. That small amount could just be enough to turn a win last term to a draw or defeat this season.
In France, Payet wouldn’t be asked to track back as much. Attackers are expected to be attack. There is a famous story where Lille boss Rudi Garcia insisted that former West Ham midfielder Joe Cole stopped chasing defenders. That wasn’t his job, the now Marseille coach declared. Showing that difference between the French and English games.
If PSG are in for a wide attacker this winter, Payet makes perfect sense and they are one of the only clubs in Europe that could take him away from West Ham’s poor season and offer him a chance to play in the Champions League. That’s why he’s riding high in the Top Whispers ranking going into the international break.