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Player Grade: Dimitri Payet's reign overshadowed by shocking betrayal

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We evaluate the wingers 2016/17 campaign with West Ham United

West Ham United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Summary

Judas Iscariot, Marcus Brutus, Guy Fawkes and Dimitri Payet, the list of names before you need NO introduction. Some of the greatest, evil and devious minds in the history of planet earth, all capable of the ultimate betrayal.

West Ham United v Newcastle United - Premier League
Dimitri Payet was one of the best players to ever don the claret and blue.
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

After a scintillating start to his career in English football during the 2015/16 season, Dimitri Payet had become an established force with West Ham United as he adjusted to life in the Premier League.

Bought at a snip-price last summer for £10.7 million, the bargain-buy from Marseille had found himself at the forefront of the baying English press as one of the signings of the season, after his impressive standout displays for both club and country.

To our delight, after Payet's incredible European Championships, we'd seemingly managed to convince our budding superstar to stay in East London, just in time for the eagerly awaited and anticipated inaugural season at The London Stadium.

As the season drew near, the expectations of a man capable of taking us to the next level became clear, as one could only hope he'd relish at the challenge. We expected to see that same grit, determination and fervour we'd come to know and expect from a Slaven Bilic side twelve months prior, with Dimitri Payet heading a rejuvenated front-line.

Retrospectively, what followed was a complete and utter catastrophe, the fallout surrounded one infantile Frenchman and his lack of mutual respect for his teammates, beloved fans and a manger that worshipped the very ground he walked on.

Expectations

'Dare to dream' was the feeling I felt leaving The London Stadium for the first time, in a 3-0 win against NK Domzale in the Europa League. Although Payet took no part in either leg, his overawing presence at the club filled me with such confidence.

France v Romania - Group A: UEFA Euro 2016
Payet scoring the winner against Romania.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Gone had the days of old where our best players were sold just to make ends meet, the owners had laid down a blueprint that West Ham were to finally make their assault on the top-six.

A lot of fans, pundits and media sources (including myself) alike had honestly expected Payet to leave in the summer. When his 90th minute winner flew in against Romania in the opening game of the EURO's I thought, that's it.

To be honest with you, when Real Madrid come calling and you're worth £50 million the chances of staying at West Ham are incredibly slim and I would have accepted it graciously.

BUT, he stayed. Now was the time to build on that dominance he'd showed in 2016.

In-fact, there wasn't a sense that Payet needed to change anything, just to continue adding to his wealth of assists and free-kick goals, whilst putting in match winning performances, something he knew of doing all to well.

Performances

What we actually got from Payet however, was the complete opposite and the image that once resonated the footballing world, one managers love for a star player, felt but a distant memory.

His performances throughout the first half of the season were impressive but somehow felt mediocre compared to last year, the passion he once showed turned to arrogance, petulance and disdain for a club once so close to his heart. His work ethic was second-rate and his overall attitude was appalling.

The squad at the time were under-performing as a whole and even when giving his most valiant effort in games such as Middlesbrough and Liverpool respectively, you could tell his heart was no longer here with us.

I'll never forget the moment Ashley Fletcher scored at Old Trafford in The EFL Cup, teammates ran to congratulate the Manchester born youngster on his first senior goal for the club, as one man walked away on his own, hand on hips to the centre circle and I knew nothing would be the same again.

When describing the reasons he left with L'Equipe, Payet said;

"I had no desire to play in the lower reaches of the Premier League."

"The defensive system that we put in place did not give me any pleasure. With a 5-4-1 in front of our box, I could have had all the freedom in the world, so it’s difficult for me to explain. You could say that I was p***** off, yes. I worked hard in every game without taking any pleasure."

"You could say I was bored."

West Ham United v Middlesbrough - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

High points and Low points

High points: Solo goal vs Middlesbrough, Rabona assist vs Watford, Free kick vs Liverpool, Leaving West Ham

Although you could argue Dimitri Payet engineered his move away from West Ham in a rather distasteful manner, you still have to applaud him for some of his efforts this season.

Liverpool v West Ham United - Premier League
Payet celebrates scoring against Liverpool at Anfield.
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Firstly his rabona assist to Michail Antonio in a 4-2 defeat to Watford at the London Stadium, clearly buoyed by his summer showing in France, the delicate touch of a genius wasn't lost as he purposefully lifted the ball to the back post for a diving Antonio header.

Against Middlesbrough at The London Stadium he put the team on his back and scored one of the best solo efforts in recent Premier League history, rounding six players on the way to slotting it past a helpless Victor Valdes. A few weeks later he nailed a trademark 25 yard free-kick en-route to a 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

Last but not least the best thing he'd done all season was actually to leave the club.

I'm not joking either, I'm serious.

The first match after Payet left we drubbed Crystal Palace 3-0 as a big two-fingers went up to him, as if to say; "We didn't need you anyway."

Low POINT: Refusal to play for West Ham

This got me more than anything, take away the performances, take away the heart, desire - everything. Look at it from these three main components.

Firstly the fans;

  • The love and passion that we collectively showed for Payet was more than any player had received since the days of Paolo Di Canio, he was going down in the history books as one of the greatest players to ever wear a West Ham shirt, as we made him one of our own.
  • Payet often described his relationship with the West Ham fans as "une histoire d'amour" - A love affair/story.

Secondly - his team mates;

  • Mark Noble finally had the Batman to his Robin, the genuine love shared between these two was incredible. A lot of the players looked up to Payet as they shared a special bond with one another, the final season at The Boleyn brought the whole squad closer together than ever and Payet was a driving factor behind it.

Lastly - Slaven Bilic;

  • Slaven Bilic was once quoted saying, after the FA Cup win at Blackburn that "he'd need poetry to describe someone like Dimitri Payet." It was obvious to see he cherished Dimitri as he took him under his wing, granted him the stage and platform to perform on as a player and for that, he owes him the world.

Taking that all into consideration, could you really have the bare-faced cheek, after everything everyone has done for you, to make this club feel like home to you and your family, to the love we showered upon you, for you to treat us with such contempt and disrespect?

This love story you spoke of was a one way thing, no man is bigger than the club and for that, David Gold and Sullivan were right to part ways with him.

Olympique de Marseille v OGC Nice - Ligue 1
Payet returned to his former club Marseille for £25 million.
Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images

Next Season

Good luck to him, honestly. Whatever he does, however he does it I wish him all the very best. I envisioned a future where this man would help us one day lift an FA Cup, but it wasn't to be, nothing is ever straight forward when you support West Ham, but it was fun while it lasted.

In an ideal world, I'd love to pour my heart over a page like most West Ham fans could for the shear love we had for this man, I don't know whether it's hate I feel toward him now for the manner in which he left the club or the fact we (I) miss him so much.

Final Grade - C (Judas)