Age: 26 (born 29th March 1987)
Current Club: Olympique de Marseille
Previous Clubs: AS Saint-Phillipe, Saint-Pierroise, Le Harve, AS Excelsior, Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Lille
Date moved to Current Club: 27th June 2013
Transfer fee: €10m
International Appearances: 6
Dimitri Payet began his footballing career with local side AS Saint-Philippe on the small French island of Reunion, about 120 miles east of Madagascar. After three years he joined Saint-Pierroise before being brought to mainland France by Le Harve, who share a profitable relationship with the Reunion club, having brought over Florent Sinama Pongolle and Guillaume Hoarau in the past.
His four year spell with Le Harve was rocky at best, accused of having a difficult character, he decided to return to Reunion with AS Excelsior in 2003 before finally returning to metropolitan France in 2005 with Ligue 1 side Nantes.
After impressing in the reserves in his first season, he was given sporadic opportunities in the first team but could not nail down a first team spot until the 2006-07 season. He went on to enjoy a good spell in the first eleven, scoring on four occasions and assisting three times in 27 appearances for the Canaries. It wasn’t all positive, a red card against Valenciennes and a spat with World Cup winner Fabien Barthez had marred a season that lead to Les Canaris’ relegation.
Determined to stay in Ligue 1, Payet joined Saint-Etienne where he enjoyed a successful spell, although it took him a season to settle in. 129 appearances and 19 goals in four years with Les Verts earned him a call up to Laurent Blanc’s French side in 2010. But he again stirred up tensions by falling out with his team-mates, including Blaise Matuidi and even then manager Alain Perrin.
Another transfer was on the horizon in January 2011 as Payet began attracting interest from England and PSG, the latter of which had turned his head enough for him to miss training. His plan backfired, he was relegated to the reserves but got his wish in the summer where he joined then champions LOSC Lille for a fee of around 9 million. His two years in Northern France were productive, scoring 18 times in 71 appearances whilst also playing Champions League football and being in the frame for the national side again.
This summer saw Payet join Marseille for a fee believed to be around 10 million, and the French international said it was purely a “sporting choice” as to why he joined L’OM. He was subject to supposed interest from Arsenal as well during the window, but you sense that Marseille is really a place for him to develop his football over the next few years. How he fares against Europe’s elite in this season’s Champions’ League will be of interest as one suspects that he has the ability to cause the very top defences problems.
“The prospect of the 2014 World Cup was a key element in my thinking, but not the only one. I wanted to stay in France, but with OM it’s also about playing in the Champions League, the chance to evolve in a quality group of players and to achieve high goals in the league. The challenge is raised, it is already exciting. Marseille’s history speaks for itself, it is full of titles and emotions. The club is a monument in French sport.”
He’s got off to a quick start, as he scored a brace on his debut against Guingamp then followed up with another goal in Marseilles 2-0 win against Evian. With Champions League games on the horizon and a starting role in the French side for the friendly in August, there is a chance for Payet to finally show his qualities on the biggest of stages and if he continues in this vein of form he will walk into the national side.
So far Payet has only made six appearances for the national side, but with him finally realising his potential it could be an opportune time to come into the fold. With the problems in the camp which had led to several players being suspended, there are gaps to be exploited and Payet looks to be becoming a more regular call-up. With Ribery the only certainty on the wings for Les Blues, it gives Payet as good of a chance as anyone to break in and solidify the spot for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
There isn’t much doubt that Payet has become a talented winger, the question marks have been there from time to time but he is finally allowing his football to do the talking. Quick, direct and developing a good eye for goal, Payet will play a big part in both Marseille’s league ambitions in the hope he will get the call from Didier Dechamps to be put on plane to Brazil next year.
Nathan Staples and James Martland