In a long, exclusive interview with L’Équipe, West Ham’s attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet took the opportunity to once again express his displeasure at his lack of recent call-ups to the French national team. Highlights below.
When you arrived at West Ham, not many people knew you. Has that changed?
I do not know if I have made a name for myself yet, but I am a bit more well-known today. I arrived on my tiptoes. It was not that bad. It allowed me to work calmly and not to have pressure after my transfer.
How has the Premier League surprised you?
The rhythm, it is much more intense. In training, I was shattered at the beginning. In the match, that is multiplied by ten. You cannot afford to be soft. You need to win the duels, to be ready to multiply your efforts. And that means going full blast! You take hits. As long as they are not full-blown attacks, they have their charm. And then, here, all the teams have impressive squads, even Newcastle, who are last. That is what makes this league incredible.
Lots of French players left like you for England this summer, and, for some, it is harder.
It is not easy to go from a club in the second half of the Ligue 1 table to the Premier League. At 28 and after having played for Marseille, I felt ready. I had offers in the past, but, when I look at the level, it would have been difficult to come here when I was younger. Ok, if your name is Eden Hazard, then, you know there is not going to be a problem… At West Ham, we have enough to make two starting XIs. If you are not good, they can quickly put someone in your place and forget about you.
Are you not worried that, by signing for West Ham, you are in a team of unrefined footballers?
I told the coach before I signed: “If I come here and the balls are going over my head, I am not going to be of much use.” He assured me about the project that he wanted to put in place. We have quality up front. We are still struggling in certain games to play our game, but we are improving.
How would you describe Slaven Bilic?
He is a bit similar to Rudi Garcia, a bit like Christophe Galtier. We have a lot of games in training, it made me miss Marseille a bit last season. He is somebody who is also capable of saying things as they are. With me, he is more of a protector for the moment.
Do you feel as if you were pushed to the exit door by Marseille?
At the end, yes. The president said that I was not going to be leaving. I was part of a list of players that Marcelo wanted to keep. But as the meeting with the DNCG got closer, the more I felt that I was going to be asked to leave. As the other transfers, like that of Imbula and Thauvin, were lagging.
Are you still as surprised as you were not to be included for France?
I do not understand what is expected of me, and I said it. But not to be called up for France does not stop me from living. Even if I think about it, I am not in front of the TV waiting for the list. I am in a dream today in England. The national team, if it will only make me unhappy, then I do not want it.
Is it unjust not to call you up considering the form that you are in?
I feel as if it is an injustice, yes. It is over a year now that I am in the best form of my career, even if I can still get better. So, for me, it is unjust not to be in the French squad, yes.