Marseille attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet spoke in an exclusive interview with L’Équipe about his decision to leave West Ham United.
“I no longer wanted to play in the bottom positions of the Premier League. Our way of approaching matches, the defensive system that was put in place, did not please me. With a 5-4-1 in front of our area, I could have had all the liberty in the world, it is difficult to express myself. You could say it annoyed me, yes. I was going from match to match without enjoying myself. I had this contact with Marseille and notably with Rudi Garcia, who had a philosophy that I know well. The choice was quick. If I wanted six months, I would have lost six months.”
Did you hesitate?
No. With West Ham at home against Hull, we won 1-0 and the opponent hit the woodwork four times. In the dressing room, everyone was happy, but the man of the match that day was the post. I said to myself that I had no room to progress. In fact, I was risking regression. I needed another challenge.
Your wife also wanted to return to Marseille.
That was another factor in my decision. When I feel good on the pitch, that is because everything is going well off of it. When things are difficult on a family level, that stops you from being at ease in your job.
Were you forced to go into conflict with West Ham over this?
I warned them: I was going to do it and I don’t think they took me seriously. I said to them face to face that I would accept the consequences of my acts. Slaven Bilic knew that I wanted to be elsewhere. Already at the start of the season, when the Euros were over, we had a discussion. The club closed the door. I respected their decision. But the footballing situation got worse.
In January, I said that I wanted to go to Marseille and not somewhere else, asking him to send a message to the board. The day that he told me he was saying no and that it was definitive, I told him that I no longer wanted to play for West Ham.
The supporters really struggled with that, you can understand that.
It is normal. They hated me as much as they loved me. That is why the reactions were so violent. I cannot be annoyed at them. For a year and a half, they gave me a lot and I will never forget them.
The hostile chanting, trampled shirts and even a stone thrown at your vehicle… were you scared?
No. It was more difficult for my family. A lot of things were said, but there is no problem with my car, for example. Me, I will continue to live normally. I went in to conflict with St Étienne, and you know what the Stéphanois fanbase.
The representatives, Bilic and your former team-mates had no love lost with you – are you angry at them?
At the coach, no. I warned him: the person most affected by this situation is him. The majority of my former teammates understood my behaviour deep down, even if the way it happened was quite brutal. The West Ham players even supported me, and there was even one who congratulated me for my goal against Lorient.
By entering into conflict to join Marseille, you said goodbye to joining a top English club or even a European giant.
The most important thing is that I am where I want to be, me and my family. And the best is still to come. I did not ask myself the question about whether or not I was turning my back on the Premier League. Some pundits spoke about it nastily, that will remain their own opinion.
Were you not disappointed not have offers after the Euros?
When you announce that you want €100m… If there were interested clubs, negotiations clearly didn’t go very far. It is because of that, that I am annoyed at the West Ham representatives. I could have gone into conflict last summer already. The month of August was badly handled.