It’s always ominous when a footballer, asked about his future in an interview overseas, gives the distinct impression he would be open to a transfer away from his current club.
The latest example? Dimitri Payet, who did little to quash speculation that he wants out of West Ham United when speaking to a French TV station recently.
“We’ve had a poor start,” said Payet. “Leave in January? I’m asking other questions but I’m not closing the door to anything. It’s always the sports project that interests me. I work like that and until I play at a level like this, it will be the case.”
Footballers these days are so well media-trained behind the scenes that it’s rare for the clichéd ‘come-and-get-me plea’ to be anything other than a veiled “I’m flattered by the interest but happy where I am” quote. That essentially translates to “I want to move but can’t say it”.
But Payet’s words went a bit further, especially the “not closing the door to anything” bit. It appears this is a player who knows his stock rose continually throughout last season, his first in English football, and at Euro 2016 to the point where he is in demand from Europe’s top clubs.
Among them is Paris Saint-Germain and that would seem a natural step for the 29-year-old at a relatively late stage of his career to join the most successful, and richest, club in his homeland.
PSG could undoubtedly afford Payet, who signed a new £120,000-a-week contract last January only six months after joining the Hammers, and after a fairly underwhelming summer transfer window by their standards he could give their Champions League push a timely boost.
So would this be the right time for West Ham to cash in on a player who quickly became their prize asset? It all depends on whether manager Slaven Bilic feels he is getting maximum effort from a player who has admitted he is already contemplating the options available to him.
As Payet himself said, West Ham are struggling towards the foot of the Premier League table – and he has contributed only two goals so far this season, one of which was in the EFL Cup at home to Accrington Stanley. This time last term he had netted five, all of them in the league.
In terms of a fee, David Gold and David Sullivan could reasonably expect to treble their money on Payet from the £11million they paid to Marseille but while the funds may then be reinvested elsewhere in the team, would the right signings be made? Judging by the arrivals of the summer, most of whom have produced little so far, that may not be the case.
Bonuscodes.com.au have reported that they’ve received an increase in bets being placed linking Payet with a move to China although that is highly unlikely, but there is certainly a lot of rumours surrounding the player, considering his quality, it’s certain many clubs would be interested in signing him if he’s ultimately placed on the transfer market.
January will, therefore, be an interesting month in the East End. What West Ham need most of all is a motivated Dimitri Payet creating chances and curling in those stunning free-kicks we saw last season.
However, they cannot afford to carry a disinterested passenger and if that’s what their talisman starts to resemble, it could be the time to say ‘au revoir’.