Remember the days when coaches were the most important decision-makers at football clubs? That seems like a long time ago. Yesterday morning when Slaven Bilic regrettably informed the media that Dimitri Payet wanted out of West Ham, it was just another case of accelerating player power.
Since joining West Ham in the summer of 2015, Payet has peaked as a footballer. Single-handedly leading West Ham to a memorable last campaign, Payet became indispensable to the Irons. His form was rewarded with a France call up for their home Euros last summer where he, again, demonstrated the ability to perform on the big stage. The Frenchman was flying high; the true West Ham way.
This season, West Ham have been under par and Dimitri Payet, while still their most creative player, has naturally stagnated. His form is OK, but nothing is quite as rosy as it was when he was scoring or assisting virtually every week.
There had been whispers that Payet would be the subject of interest in January, but nothing seemed concrete until this point. Bilic’s admittance that the playmaker no longer wanted to stay at the London Stadium was supported by ideas that perhaps he had been ‘tapped up’.
Whether that was the case or not, there can be no denying that Payet is unsettled. Slaven Bilic was particularly angry in an unusually emotional press conference but has maintained that the ex-Marseille player will not be sold. After all, he is contracted to the Hammers for the long term future. Remember when that meant something, too?
The whole fiasco is just another example of player power, a plague that is becoming more common in the modern era of agent fees and their significance. While Jose Fonte strikes at Southampton and Mesut Ozil is the master of his own contract, players are increasingly holding their employers to ransom. In the common workplace, that etiquette is a sackable offence, but football is in its own, greedy world. We would be unfair to disregard player’s happiness, but sometimes it is genuinely hard to comprehend.
Payet will undoubtedly get his way. Bilic said this morning that it will ‘never’ happen, but his West Ham career is terminal. Payet will either rot in the reserves or force his move to Marseille or back to France this month. The Irons faithful will be left betrayed and West Ham will struggle without him, but Payet’s requirements are the story.
Let us not forget, Payet has a history of transfer requests and feuds with managers. He is yet to stick around at one club and pointed the finger at French national coach Didier Deschamps for ‘unfairly ignoring’ his form. An insanely talented player on the field, Payet has exhibited poor conduct off of it.
West Ham may keep their man for the rest of the season, but his relationship with the club is now hollow. Should he suddenly have a change in mindset, fans and coaches alike will know deep down that Payet has vested interest in forcing a move away. The end is nigh for the Frenchman.