Payet episode has opened up a new can of worms

Slaven Bilic recently announced that Dimitri Payet would not be playing for or training with the West Ham first team for the foreseeable future because “he does not want to play for us”. One often hears of tube drivers taking days off work to protest for their rights, but now Payet, who earns an estimated £125,000 a week, has gone on strike. After having a £19 million Marseille bid rejected against Payet’s wishes, does he have the right to refuse to play?


West Ham, who agreed a five-year contract with their star player only last year, is under no obligation to release him. Although Bilic can expect to attract large offers for one of the stand-out players of Euro 2016, the club’s success remains his primary concern. Payet, born on the French island of Réunion off the coast of Madagascar, has a very different, self-centred motivation. When signing his contract last year, he committed himself to the club. However, after proving himself on the global stage and gaining the attention of prestigious clubs such as Marseille, West Ham’s top scorer last season has decided that he is now too good for 12th in the Premier League table.

This self-righteous attitude has resulted from the power shift from the club authorities to the players. Today, when superstar players are often relied upon to carry a team, these players build up an influence which increases their authority. This can lead to players such as Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Luis Suarez being too easily sold, often leading to the demise of teams which relied too heavily on one plan. This shift in attitude is extremely dangerous because contracts can become meaningless. If a player knows that he is relied upon, he can sign lucrative contracts without worrying about the time attached to it. If a player becomes dissatisfied or hears of offers coming from teams he admires, all that is required is a strike, and the team is forced either to take the money and buy a replacement, or hold the moral high ground and drop points.

Payet cannot be forced to play against his will. In football, players are the company’s most valuable commodity, and a dismissal will result in a huge potential profitability loss. As a result, Payet is put in a position that renders it impossible for West Ham to benefit without giving him what he wants. Effectively, Payet is using himself as a ransom. If the club does not release him, they will struggle to win games due to their financial inability to buy a replacement. Therefore, regardless of Bilic’s attempts to play the carrot and the stick with Payet, he must admit defeat. The players have become too powerful.

Payet’s selfishness has been subject to much abuse from football fans. His abuse of power gained from his talent has moved him from fan-favourite to a symbol of footballers’ tainted morality. No longer is loyalty to a club that has developed a player from obscurity to international success worth anything. Payet is focused on his career path, and not the future of his club.

The irreversible shifts in power from the team to the individual has resulted in the ability of world-class players to manipulate clubs, render contracts obsolete and allow them to disregard their team’s plan at a moment’s notice. Players such as Sanchez and Ozil could manipulate Arsenal with the click of their fingers. But it is not for the big clubs that I worry. When small clubs produce world-class players, it is becoming impossible to hold on to them.

The future of the ‘minnow’ is vanishing – it is only the memory of Leicester’s miracle that keeps my hopes alive.

Joshua Korber Hoffman is a 15-year-old football fanatic and Arsenal supporter. He writes a football blog called The Young Gun, in which his love for writing and the beautiful game intersect

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