Payet: mercenary or misunderstood

By Louis Gibbon

On 30th  January Dimitri Payet completed his £25 million move to Marseille, with cries of ‘Judas’ and ‘traitor’ from West Ham fans and the media alike. For me, and I’ll accept this is an unpopular opinion, I do not believe the Frenchman has done an awful lot wrong.

When Slaven Bilic gave his sombre interview in early January stating Payet’s intentions to leave, I read various ludicrous claims that West Ham had created him, and now he was using them to secure a big money move to a bigger club. This turned out to be far from the truth. As it has now been revealed that he has in fact taken a 25k a week pay cut to join his old club, the critics have subsequently become a bit quieter.

In any other job, if you were homesick and wanted to return home to your family, it would be considered completely acceptable to quit. It was never about the money for Payet.  Although his decision to strike has been interpreted by many as unacceptable, one has to ask whether he would have obtained the move without it? Almost certainly not. This is not the same as the case of Robbie Savage refusing to play when he was club captain at Birmingham purely for a pay rise, that was greedy. Payet had no other option.

Also, West Ham have not come out of this poorly by any means. They have looked a better side without him this season. Payet is going on 30 and was on strike, yet they still sold him for £25 million, as well as getting his January wages back. That money can be reinvested into hungrier, younger talent who want to play for West Ham. What would the fans rather he did? Suffer in silence, put in below par performances, whilst getting older, and leave in the summer for half the price?

Another debate which has arisen from this is that ‘there is no loyalty in football anymore’ – a tired cliché wasted in scenarios like this. Imagine, for instance, that Joe Hart left Man City for Torino on a permanent move. And then, in two years’ time, when Pep has gone, he returns for a significant pay cut purely to return home to his old beloved club. Everyone would be screaming about the loyalty shown by the keeper and yet, with the blinkers with which many English fans follow the game, Payet’s act is seen as traitorous and unacceptable.

And it is for these reasons, I believe, that the commotion us over the top. Payet is not moving for money, nor to a particularly better club. He wants to move for family reasons and for that reason I find it hard to attach much blame to the Frenchman’s door. Maybe, the stick and attention is a result of a quiet January and people desperately searching for a story. The reality is, all parties will have probably benefited from this saga. It is time for people to move on.

Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

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