Dimitri Payet: Is West Ham's mercurial midfielder the find of the summer?

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There are some players who strive hard to achieve high levels of performance whilst others simply turn up, don the kit and weave magic as if born to the very task. These celestial entities don't run, they merely glide and pirouette.

The passes that leave their gilded feet are caressed or stroked, never just kicked, and all balls provided seem to possess a degree of pace, trajectory and accuracy that was born in a physics laboratory instead of on a grassy expanse.

Their efforts appear effortless; their ability limitless; their vision lazer-guided. Dimitri Payet is one such players.


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The Frenchman arrived at West Ham with a track record of some pedigree, but with question marks hanging over his head. Described by a succession of previous managers as 'a difficult character', showing 'a lack of motivation', and having 'a natural indifference', Payet flitted from first team to reserves with inglorious regularity, and both form and confidence suffered.

There was no doubting his ability and potential, but potential has to morph into an end product at some stage, and there were few signs that this would be the case.

Spells at French Ligue 1 sides Nantes, St. Etienne, Lille and Marseille from 2005 to 2014 were characterised by brilliance interspersed with anonymity. As far back as late 2010, both Liverpool and Chelsea were linked with the midfielder, though lingering doubts about his will and determination and consistency of performance clearly prevented any big-money move to the Premier League.

Payet has been capped at both U-21 level and full international level for France - 11 and nine caps respectively - so his talents were being recognised by those at the top.

It was the June 2015 move to West Ham that sparked the mercurial Payet into life. Given a fairly free reign between the midfield and strikers, he hit the ground running with a series of man-of-the-match displays that showcased all that was best about his game.

Brilliant, dipping free-kicks that were rifled into dangerous areas; quick feet for one-touch trickery; pace, both with and without the ball; and perhaps his biggest asset - an unerring ability to slide perfectly-weighted through balls into space or to feet, often leading to goals or near misses.

West Ham fans had been made aware of his outstanding record of creating chances, but witnessing his qualities at first-hand was a joy to behold after several years of slog and grind under the laboured Sam Allardyce.

Here was a slight, nimble and pacey wizard that epitomised rhythm without the blues. There was an essence of Paulo Di Canio about him.

West Ham had found their very own David Silva, or Eden Hazard, or Alexis Sanchez somewhat - a player that transcended the average at the Hammers and lit up the turf like floodlights could only dream of.

When Payet excelled, the team punched three divisions above their weight. Away scalps taken at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City made history for so many reasons, and integral to these stellar and simply astounding run of on-the-road victories was one Dimitri Payet - the puppet master who pulled strings in every direction to confuse and bemuse leaden-footed opposition.

The hope for West Ham aficionados is that Dimitri has at long last found a spiritual home - a refuse where his skills and tricks will be cheered to the rafters. It's early days, but the signs are good, and the current league position is even better.

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