Why are Ham­mers in a fuss over Payet?

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER -

EAR­LIER this week, a French­man moved from one club to an­other. Mid­way through his con­tract, Manch­ester United de­cided they did not need Mor­gan Sch­nei­der­lin any more so they moved him on into the will­ing hands of Ever­ton. There was no fuss and nor should there have been. It is the way foot­ball works.

When a club de­cide they do not want a player any more, they get rid of him. It doesn’t mat­ter how long his con­tract has to run.

If he doesn’t want to go, there are ways and means of per­suad­ing him it re­ally is in his best in­ter­ests to leave. Mak­ing him train with the kids is a favourite.

He might not have any de­sire to leave. It might up­root his fam­ily, force him to take his kids out of the school they are happy in, move him to an area where he doesn’t want to live. But that’s a foot­baller’s life. Tran­si­tory and peri­patetic and, if you are in the Pre­mier League, ex­tremely well paid.

So why is ev­ery­one get­ting so aw­fully up­set about an­other French­man, Dim­itri Payet, and his ap­par­ent de­sire to leave West Ham? Loy­alty has to cut both ways and if clubs do not show any loy­alty to play­ers or man­agers, why should play­ers show any loy­alty to them?

West Ham’s fans have taken Payet to their hearts and sung his song and thrilled to his world-class skills, so you have to feel for them.

He was sup­posed to be the mar­quee player to lead them into the brave new world of their move to Lon­don Sta­dium and beyond and, now that he wants to go, the mis­ery of that sta­dium move has been mul­ti­plied.

The West Ham board gets no sym­pa­thy. For a start, they are cur­rently try­ing to sign striker Scott Ho­gan, who is un­der con­tract to Brent­ford. West Ham do not ap­pear to be overly con­cerned with the con­cept of Ho­gan’s loy­alty.

They don’t seem to care too much about the ef­fect on the Cham­pi­onship side or how Brent­ford’s fans will feel about the loss of a player who was looked af­ter by the club for 19 months while he re­cov­ered from a knee in­jury.

West Ham have also sub­mit­ted a bid for Hull’s Robert Sn­od­grass. OK, the of­fer was de­risory and has been treated with the wider con­tempt it de­served, but Sn­od­grass is just about the only thing stand­ing be­tween Hull’s fans and rel­e­ga­tion.

When a club want to get rid of a player, they get rid of him. When a player wants to leave, he usu­ally leaves. Peo­ple will ac­cuse Payet of break­ing his con­tract but he is no more break­ing his con­tract than a club break a player’s con­tract when they sell him.

West Ham do not have to sell Payet. They can hold him to his con­tract. Just the same as Chelsea will be able to hold Diego Costa to his con­tract even if in­ter­est from China hard­ens up and his row with An­to­nio Conte gets worse. But clubs rarely do that just as play­ers rarely stay where they are not wanted.

It is lit­tle con­so­la­tion for their fans but, in this in­stance, West Ham are just the biter bit. Some mem­o­ries in foot­ball are bliss­fully short but it was only in June 2015 that West Ham agreed a deal with Payet be­hind the back of his club, Mar­seille, where he was a crowd favourite. Mar­seille were bounced into sell­ing him.

So why should we feel any sym­pa­thy for West Ham if, as re­ports sug­gest, Mar­seille have re­turned the favour?

He has found him­self stuck at a club whose board de­cided to move to an ath­let­ics sta­dium and prepared for it so badly that their sea­son has de­scended into a mess.

It is not re­ally much of a sur­prise that Payet wants out.

He may not be bet­ter than Zine­dine Zi­dane, as the song sug­gests, but he clearly feels he de­serves a more fit­ting stage.

A trans­fer win­dow is al­ways a giddy fes­ti­val of sep­a­rat­ing play­ers from their al­le­giances and pris­ing them from fans who idolise them. It’s a sick kind of ro­mance. All Payet is do­ing is mak­ing the first move.

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