Dimitri Payet
European International Premier League

Dimitri Payet and what it takes to make it in football

Everyone’s got that mate who had a trial over at Wolves back in their teens who definitely would have made it but for that one knee injury. Maybe you even were that guy. Maybe you know very well the difference between FIFA 17 and how it works in the real world. People use terms like dreams and fantasy a great deal in the football world. Then there are people, like Dimitri Payet, who take their dreams and decide to make them a reality. 

When a video emerged earlier this year of Payet working behind the till of the clothes shop he used to work in while he was in the youth team at Ligue 1 side Nantes. Still in his teens, Dimitri had to work as hard as he could in training just to get anywhere near the team, and then supplement his meagre earnings by working part time as a retail assistant at a shop in the town, helping customers.

There isn’t anything too strange about that perhaps, but Dimitri’s path to scoring goals for France in international tournaments was far from ordinary. He comes originally from the Indian Ocean, French Island colony of Reunion, 9,000km from France, and his plan was to return there and live out the rest of his life. Dimitri Payet struggled when he joined Le Havre AC. He had joined their academy at the tender age of 12 but but 16, Accusations were being thrown around about his being unmotivated and lacking the willpower to really capitalise on his abilities. Youth team coaches harped on about his having a difficult character and that it was his mentality that would stop him getting to the top.

“I had spent four years at Le Havre. It hit me hard when they told me they weren’t keeping me, that I wasn’t good enough for the second division.”

He decided to throw it all in at the tender age of just 16. Dimitri returned to Reunion. Payet joined up with AS Excelsior as the youngest player in the Reunion Premier league and seemed content to play in front of crowds of around 2000. It was there that he was talent spotted by another French club, Nantes. But he was initially reluctant.

“I thought the dream was over. I didn’t even want to hear or talk about me ever going back to France.”

“But when a second chance came along, I argued about it with my dad and uncle – and they convinced me that I should try my luck again.”

Dimitri Payet photo

It was mainly his father that stepped in and helped him realise his potential. The two would sit up long into the night, arguing about what a shame it would be not to use his gifts to really make something of himself. His father had played for Saint Phillipe on the island, but had never made it past the local league, never getting invited to take the step up to the big time. But, even after his father had talked him into giving it a second chance, things weren’t going to be easy for Dimitri Payet. His previous reputation had made Nantes a little wary, so they included a clause in his contract saying it could be easily cancelled after 6 months if things didn’t work out. Even now Payet doesn’t really blame Le Havre.

“Back then I wasn’t an easy person to handle. I was always one of the first to mess around. So there were a lot of reasons why my adventure had stopped early.”

Dimitri Payet was never the biggest player, and playing against fully grown men as a slight youngster of 16 toughened him up a whole amount and introduced him to the physicality of the game in a new way. 18 months playing in Reunion was enough to ready him to head back to France to try again.

Payet photo

Payet’s return to France wasn’t what anyone would call ordinary either. His career was instantly tracked by millions of viewers in 2005 as he was one of only 4 youth players selected to feature in a TV documentary in France, following the lives of footballing hopefuls over almost a year.  Payet was the only candidate of the 4 to make it.

“That documentary is important to me today because it reminds me what it was like 10 years ago and how far hard work has taken me in this time.”

The video featured above made up part of the TV show. Viewers watched a young Payet take a baccalaureate in sales and marketing, and serve out an internship in a Lacoste boutique. Meanwhile, on the pitch, Dimitri Payet was being given opportunities to impress by then manager Serge Le Dizet, featuring early on against teams like Bordeaux and Metz. He went on to become a first team regular, scoring 5 goals the following season and securing a multi-million euro move to St. Etienne when Nantes were relegated the following year.

The hot-headedness never quite went away though. Dimitri was banned for a short period while at St. Etienne, for head-butting his own team mate, Blaise Matuidi, in 2011, but when West Ham ans compare the midfielder with Zidane, this isn’t really what they’re talking about. It was at Marseille, however, that he discovered his real form. Under Argentine coach, Marcelo Bielsa, Marseille threatened to recapture the former glories the club had once enjoyed, and Payet was a big part of his plans.

Bielsa left me out of the squad for a game … but that was a way of making sure I kept focused and didn’t get complacent. 

Money problems meant Marseille had to sell Dimitri Payet at a cut-price £10 million, something West Ham were shrewd enough to capitalise on. And the story of the youngster’s career has only flourished from there. Scoring goals like this.

So,having fought so hard to make it to the top, we’re asking today:


Photo by joshjdss

Photo by joshjdss

Photo by xavnal

Photo by xavnal

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