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Premier League Cult Icons: Dimitri Payet

Dimitri Payet's career at West Ham was a brief love-affair but nothing could detract from the Frenchman's inescapable brilliance during his time in east London.

Signed for a fee of £10.7million from Marseille in 2015, Payet elevated West Ham from mid-table obscurity to competing for European football.

With a box of tricks and faultless precision, he would conjure extraordinary moments of magic to put the opposition to the sword.

It didn't matter who he was up against, Payet was always going to play a starring role, the lead protagonist in Slaven Bilic's cast.

Even after his unceremonious departure from West Ham, Payet's genius will be celebrated in the Premier League's archives for many years to come.

Dimitri Payet In Profile

Place of BirthSaint-Pierre, Réunion, France
PositionAttacking midfielder
Premier League club(s)West Ham
Premier League appearances48
Premier League goals11
Premier League assists19
International caps38
Other notable clubsSaint-Etienne, Lille, Marseille

Journey into football

Born on the French island of Reunion, which is located in the Indian Ocean and 680km east of Madagascar, Payet's career started with AS Saint-Philippe from the age of eight before joining one of the more famed clubs on the island, JS Saint-Pierroise.

Within a year he'd caught the attention of Le Havre, a club famed for their prestigious youth programme, with Payet relocating to the mainland.

A player of Payet's talent, you would imagine it was plain-sailing from here. It wasn't.

Critical of his attitude, coaches at Le Havre labelled Payet as too small and too brittle for a professional career. After four years in Normandy, he returned to Reunion. It was a setback that ultimately helped shape him.

Joining AS Excelsior as the youngest player in the island league, he scored 12 goals in 18 appearances and within 12 months, Nantes had made an offer. Payet was persuaded by his father to pursue it and having flourished with Nantes' reserve team, he made his professional debut for La Maison Jaune in December 2005, aged 18.

He signed his first professional contract in the summer of 2006 and from there, his career trajectory headed in one direction.

Style of play

Payet was one beautifully exhilarating talent.

World-class is a term coined too easily but the midfielder possessed a unique skillset that was deserving of that status, elevating himself to a level that few players can reach.

For what he lacked in athleticism he atoned for with his incredible perception of the game, his ability to craft chances from nothing and the technique to execute the unthinkable.

Payet was menacing enough from open play and yet it was from dead-ball situations that instilled the most fear in opposition. It didn't matter if it was from 20-yards out or 35-yards out, Payet would wrap his right foot round the ball and find the top corner, the goalkeeper powerless to prevent the inevitable.

Not to forget the catalogue of nutmegs and rabonas in his repertoire. Payet thrived on being the entertainer, from bearing the responsibility of West Ham's success and earning the acclaim of the rest of the Premier League.

He truly was one of a kind.

West Ham United legacy

Legend. Snake.

Payet's lasting impact on West Ham supporters was divisive after his controversial exit but make no mistake, his genius - especially during the club's final season at the Boleyn Ground - will ensure he is never forgotten.

His stint with the Hammers was inundated with moments of individual brilliance. The stunning free-kick against Manchester United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford, the outrageous rabona assist that sparked Troy Deeney into a fit of rage and the mazing run and finish against Middlesbrough, to name a few.

The Frenchman even defied the laws of science to pin a sublime free-kick beyond Wayne Hennessey against Crystal Palace.

Named Premier League Player of the Year in 2016, Payet's excellence ensured the final campaign at the Boleyn Ground was a period supporters could truly cherish. The main gripe Hammers fans will have is that he didn't stay for longer or, better yet, go on to achieve the success that his talent deserved.

Biggest career achievement

Payet has collected a number of individual accolades during his career but with the exception of his time at AS Excelsior, the midfielder has failed to win a trophy at any of his six clubs.

Reaching the final of the Europa League in 2018 with Marseille. Payet was withdrawn with a hamstring issue after 32 minutes with Atletico Madrid going on to win the match 3-0.

He suffered final heartbreak two years prior whilst on international duty, with Eder's strike in extra-time ending France's hopes of a home success at Euro 2016. He did make the Team of the Tournament, a small consolation in a year where Payet featured prominently in Didier Deschamps' plans.

On top of being named Premier League Player of the Year, he's featured in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year in three seasons. Payet received further recognition in European competitions, featuring in the Europa League and Europa Conference League Team of the Season with Marseille.

Did you know?

Could you picture Payet in a Tottenham shirt? It was an idea that had the opportunity to become reality in 2009.

According to Damien Comolli, who was formerly Tottenham's director of football, the club had been in conversation with the president of Saint-Etienne over the future transfer of Payet.

Saint-Etienne were in the process of sealing the £4m purchase of Payet from Nantes when a verbal agreement was reached with Tottenham, giving Spurs the option to sign him for £10m in two years time.

Comolli was later sacked from his role at Tottenham and coincidentally headed to Saint-Etienne as sporting director, which ended any notion of Payet making the switch to White Hart Lane.

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