In speaking with L’Équipe, Marseille man Dimitri Payet talked about being an elder statesman in a young squad and how his controversial move away from West Ham in January 2017 came about.
You often forge a passionate bond with your clubs, especially with West Ham. The fans, and even captain Mark Noble, still don’t understand your departure from the club.
“I left West Ham more for family reasons than sporting ones… To be good on the pitch, I have to be happy, and if my family isn’t happy, I can’t be. So I made the choice to go home. It wasn’t on a whim or a backtrack because, since I came back here, I haven’t moved and I don’t intend to. It was a thoughtful decision.”
Your former teammate James Collins said the Dimitri Payet who returned from Euro 2016 wasn’t the same.
“It all started there. I’d left Marseille when it wasn’t planned, because the club needed to sell. I’d said that the story wasn’t over. The EUROs in France, and in particular the matches at the Vélodrome, rekindled the flame in me and in my family. This sped up the return process.”
You’ll be 35 in March, are you often reminded of your age in the Marseille dressing room?
“Not often, but I feel it, especially during the weeks with three matches when I realise that I no longer have the legs of my twenties. If I want to last, I’ll have to adapt. But the most important thing is desire and I have that. Plus, I’ve always been friends with the younger players… Honestly, the age difference isn’t noticeable, except maybe on days off. Some go to Paris, some to Barcelona, and I go to see my kids matches! (Smiles)”