Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.

Dimitri Payet

West Ham's Payet

Every summer loads of exciting new players are brought into the Premier League for exorbitant amounts of money. Every season loads of these new players disappoint fans while a small handful find a way to thrive in the English game. Luckily for West Ham United supporters, their big name signing has grown into one of the most exciting players in the league. Dimitri Payet has quickly become West Ham’s newest superstar, but how did he get to this point?

Forged in France

After beginning his playing career with a local club, Dimitri Payet made the move to one of France’s most prestigious youth programs at the age of 12. The midfielder joined Le Havre, a program responsible for the development of players like Paul Pogba, Lassana Diara and Riyad Mahrez. His time at the club was short-lived as he spent just four years in the youth system.

After Le Havre, Payet joined AS Excelsior’s youth system where he would spend two years before making the jump to senior competition. In 2005, an 18-year-old Payet joined Ligue 1 club Nantes during the January transfer window. Payet would spend the rest of the 2004/05 campaign as a member of Nantes’ reserve team, and would go on to make three substitute appearances the following year. In just his second appearance for the club, Payet managed to score his first professional goal against Metz despite being subbed on in the 88th minute.

It wasn’t until his second full year at the club that Payet would establish himself as the team’s first choice midfielder. In his first start for Nantes, the 20-year-old would find the back of the net against Lille, and he would go on to score three more goals that season. Payet also provided another four assists that season and appeared 33 times for his club. While the 2006/07 campaign saw the midfielder kickstart his professional career, it also saw Nantes finish dead last in Ligue 1 as they were relegated into the second division.

Even though Nantes’ left the top tier of French competition, Payet didn’t. That summer, the midfielder joined Saint-Étienne for a reported fee of £3.2 million. In his first season at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Payet failed to have the same statistical influence that he had at Nantes. The 21-year-old did, however, start 26 times for his new club and provide another three assists along the way. The conclusion of the season saw St. Etienne push all the way to a fifth place finish (six places higher than they did the previous season) and qualify for the UEFA Cup.


In his first taste of European competition, Payet emerged as a potential star. Through ten games in the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League), the future West Ham star scored and assisted three goals as St. Étienne made it all the way to the Round of 16. The addition of European fixtures to St. Étienne’s schedule was apparently too much for the squad to handle as they struggled to a 17th place finish in the league.

Payet’s final two seasons at the club featured a major moment of controversy. In the final stretch of the 2009/10 season, Payet got in an on-field confrontation with club captain Blase Matuidi, and was eventually forced to make a public apology for the incident. The following year would be the midfielder’s most prolific as a pro as he scored a career-high 13 goals and provided another three assists.

After four years at St. Étienne, Payet was again on the move in Ligue 1. The 2011 summer transfer window saw the midfielder join league champions Lille. The move to Lille gave Payet the chance to make his Champions League debut against Inter Milan, but the French club were unable to advance past the group stage after winning just one match.

His time at Lille was shortlived, but it did give him the opportunity to play with former West Ham player Joe Cole and future Chelsea star Eden Hazard. During his second, and final year with the club, the 26-year-old set career-highs in both goals (12), including this golazo against Toulouse FC, and assists (13). His assist total was tied for the best in Ligue 1, and his emphatic performances earned him a place in that year’s team of the season. Unfortunately for Lille, Payet’s amazing season wasn’t good enough to earn them European competition for the following year as they finished sixth, one point behind their midfielder’s former employers.

Following Lille’s failure to qualify for Europe, Payet joined Olympique de Marseille for a reported £9 million. In his first appearance for the club, the midfielder would score twice in a 3-1 win over Guingamp. Payet would become an integral part of Marseille’s midfield and started four of their six Champions League fixtures. He was the second highest goal scorer on the team (eight), and the joint-top assist provider (six).

In his final season at Marseille, Payet would once again establish himself as one of the best midfielders in Ligue 1. He would lead the league in assists with 17, and also score seven goals along the way. For the second time in three years, he earned himself a spot in the Ligue 1 team of the season.

Welcome to West Ham

During the 2015 summer transfer window, Payet’s ten-year playing career in France would come to an end. Premier League club West Ham United paid around £12 million for the midfielder’s talents and right now that’s looking like a bargain. The 29-year-old’s first season in England has been astounding, and his creative presence at the heart of West Ham’s midfield has played a key role in their domestic success. Unbelievable goals against the likes of Manchester United, Bournemouth and most recently Crystal Palace have made the Frenchman an immediate fan favorite at Upton Park. Can he carry them into European competition?

International Career

French player Dimitri Payet

After his impressive displays with St. Étienne, Payet earned his international debut with France during the nation’s Euro 2012 qualifying run. After inconsistent spurts with the national team in recent years, his resurgence with West Ham have made the midfielder one of France’s most valuable assets going into this summer’s European Championships. In their most recent friendlies, Payet scored an unbelievable free kick against Russia. Barring injury, Payet should be one of the first names on the team sheet for Didier Deschamps this summer.

Playing Style

Dimitri Payet is an attacking central midfielder. His technical ability with the ball allows him to orchestrate attacks, and torment opposing defenses. The 29-year-old isn’t afraid to flash his skill and creativity on the pitch, and his poor West Ham teammates have to deal with his fancy footwork almost everyday in training. Not once, but twice (for all we know) has Payet made his teammates look like fools with these mouthwatering goals. In addition to all of this, he has also emerged as one of the best free kick takers in the league. Just look at his highlights from this season and wait for your jaw to drop as the ball curls into the top corner.


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