Stewart Downing explains how conversation with Bilic helped decide West Ham exit

Stewart Downing says he wasn't convinced that Slaven Bilic wanted to keep him at West Ham.

Stewart Downing has told the Daily Express that he joined Middlesbrough after a conversation with West Ham manager Slaven Bilic.

Downing, 31, completed an emotional return to boyhood club Middlesbrough, heading back to the club where he started his career - despite enjoying a strong season with West Ham.

The winger-turned-playmaker hit six goals under Sam Allardyce last season, but the Hammers have since signed French international playmaker Dimitri Payet.

Many believed that having lost his place to Payet, Downing made his move back to Teesside - but the former Liverpool man has told the Daily Express that it was a conversation with new manager Bilic that helped convince him to leave Upton Park, suggesting that the Croatian didn't seem to really want him to stay.

"The change of manager was a big factor," said Downing. "If Sam had stayed, then I'm sure he'd have had a good sit down to try to persuade me to stay."

"After speaking to Slaven, I didn't get that feel of someone who really wanted me there. He said, 'I'd love you to say', but I didn't get the feeling that I got when Sam signed me," he added.

The right decision?

West Ham are moving forward into an ambitious new era, and that has involved a number of new, big money signings - including Payet.

Downing would seemingly have been tempted by a move back down to the Championship with Middlesbrough regardless of whether Payet was signed or not, and the deal works out great for all parties.

West Ham get funds to reinvest elsewhere, Downing gets his move back to Middlesbrough and Aitor Karanka's men get a player who is clearly too good for the Championship - and whilst Downing may have been disappointed that Bilic didn't put up more of a fight to keep him, he will be delighted to be back at the Riverside Stadium.

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