When the dust settled in Manchester all that could be heard were the cat-calls aimed in the direction of Louis Van Gaal. Manchester United’s much maligned manager has endured a torrid spell as Red Devils coach but that is a story for another day — as today the focus should be on the genius of Dimitri Payet.
Payet’s story is one of stardust. At a young age he left home to pursue his dreams of being a professional footballer but he experienced a turbulent 4-year spell with Le Harve and returned home to the beach lifestyle on Réunion playing in the local Premier League.
Years later, he would find himself gracing grand English stadia where he has regularly showcased his magical talents.
Upon Le Harve reflection, the coaches demanded footballing mastery of the basics by the youngsters:
“Back then I wasn’t an easy person to handle. I was always one of the first to mess around. There were a lot of reasons my adventure stopped at that point. I was quite traumatised by the experience. I felt I hadn’t been seen in my best light. When Le Havre told me they weren’t keeping me because I wasn’t good for the second division, that hit me hard.”
His return home was brief as 18 months down the track Nantes offered him a way back to mainland France. It proved to be the turning point in his career as Payet played for Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Lille, Marseille and won 15 French caps before getting his ticket to England with West Ham United.
Upon reflection, it was his father who convinced him to give football another shot.
I accepted [Nantes’ offer] for my dad, in particular, because football is his passion and he never got the opportunity to go beyond Reunion. I took on the challenge mainly for him; and having that idea in my head helped me stay strong in Nantes. Without that conversation I wouldn’t be here now so I can never thank him enough.
At the time of writing, Payet has scored 11 goals and assisted 10 times in 29 appearances this season. His standout performances will result in a two-horse race with Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez for this season’s Player of the Year award. Furthermore, West Ham rewarded him with a new five-year contract only last month.
The 28-year-old has been the catalyst for West Ham’s excellent form this season and he may very well be showcasing at another major English landmark—Wembley stadium—if the Hammers beat United in their FA Cup quarter-final replay.
It would be a fitting finale for the Boleyn faithful to witness another masterclass from Payet as this will be the final FA Cup tie ever held at Upton Park before West Ham move to the Olympic stadium. With an expected cauldron of East-End passion and a high-octane atmosphere, the bubbles will be out in force.