Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud will fly into London on Monday to try and persuade West Ham United to sell their rebel player, Dimitri Payet.
A bid of just under £20million – plus £2.5million should Marseille qualify for the Champions League – has already been rejected by West Ham for Payet who has told the club he will never play for them again.
West Ham have publicly stated that Payet is not for sale but if an offer closer to their valuation of £40million is made for the French international he is expected to leave before the January window closes.
West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan met with Payet’s agent Jacques-Olivier Auguste on Friday with the Premier League club again offering to allow the 29-year-old to leave this summer if he will see through the rest of the campaign.
However Payet, who is claiming he is suffering from a back injury and has been banished from the first-team squad by West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who is exasperated, is insisting he wants to go this month and largely for personal reasons. Payet’s partner has returned to Marseille with the couple’s children, it is understood.
Even so Payet has been agitating for a move since returning from the Euros last summer – although West Ham received no offers until this month’s bid from Marseille who he left in 2015 to join them. Telegraph Sport revealed on Friday that West Ham had even paid Payet, who signed a new five-year contract only last February, making him the highest-paid player in the club’s history, a £1million loyalty bonus last September.
Eyraud will meet with West Ham officials and it is hoped that a compromise solution can be found although it is unlikely that the French club will substantially increase their offer for Payet. However all parties hope that some kind of understanding can be reached because they recognise how damaging the situation is.
Payet’s future was the dark backdrop to Saturday’s London derby with Crystal Palace, ultimately won in some style, with a picturebook finish from Andy Carroll the crowning moment.
The anger over what is widely seen as Payet’s betrayal of a club who transformed him into an international star but who have been in desperate need of his magical ways in recent weeks is widespread. Pictures and video circulated of some West Ham fans wiping their feet on a Payet shirt as they entered the stadium and others changing the wording of a former song of love to an invective-filled rant.
Yet, as one star tarnishes, others shine more brightly to fill the void. They took time to get going, and Palace were ineffective, but West Ham ended with a swagger rarely seen in this troubled season. Carroll laid on a rumbustious centre-forwards’ performance and, 11 minutes from the end, supplied a contender for goal of the season with an acrobatic volley.
There was also Manuel Lanzini, so often in Payet’s shadow last season, but now twinkling in his own right. He had the energy to launch a run from inside his own half to take on and finish a spectacular third goal just before the end. And Michail Antonio who, thanks to manager Slaven Bilic’s half-time tactical tweak, pushed further up the pitch, terrorised Palace’s rearguard and turned creator for Sofiane Feghouli’s breakthrough goal and Carroll’s wonder-strike.
Antonio played despite suffering the effects of flu, a point West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady was able to make in an apparent swipe at Payet. “Michail Antonio was in bed with flu yesterday, got out of bed, pulled on his shirt & played magnificently – that’s dedication for you,” she tweeted.
Where once they sang Payet’s name, now the West Ham supporters laud their manager and Bilic said: “I expected it from the crowd and from the players. It was a great example that it’s always about the team – not about an individual.”
Palace are dangling above the relegation zone on goal difference, still waiting for the first win under Sam Allardyce after five attempts. “The task is first and foremost to stop letting goals in,” said Allardyce. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance to stay in the game and just capitulated.”
Michail Antonio was in bed with flu yesterday, got out of bed pulled on his shirt & played magnificently today - that's dedication for you— Lady Brady (@karren_brady) January 14, 2017