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Former coach Michael Lebaillif surprised by Dimitri Payet's success at West Ham

Upton Park

The Frenchman's former coach admits that the Hammers star didn't always look like a world beater.

 

A former coach of West Ham United ace Dimitri Payet has told the Daily Mail that the French playmaker did not always look like he was going to make it as a footballer.

The 28-year-old has emerged as a star of English football after netting 10 goals and setting up another nine in all competitions following a £10 million switch from Marseille in the summer.

Payet is almost certain to be among the candidates for PFA Player of the Year in what looks like hugely successfully working relationship with Hammers manager Slaven Bilic.

The Croatian boss clearly rates him, but one coach who had his doubts over Payet's long-term success in football is Michael Lebaillif, who worked with him at Le Havre from the age of 14 to 16.

Lebaillif notes that he was always "technically sound", but lacked a host of other fundamental qualities during his formative years.

"He found it hard when he came here," Lebaillif told the Daily Mail. "He came over here alone as a kid. He went home at Christmas or Easter but that’s really tough, to be without your family.

"He lacked maturity and he did some silly, childish things. He had problems in the nearby school. He lacked rigour and the ability to really dedicate himself to his football at that age. He never did anything terrible but it was an accumulation of factors.

"He was always technically sound. On the field, he was always obsessed with scoring beautiful goals, he was attempting acrobatics during games and rarely chose the easy option. It is the old story of expression against rigour and we certainly want our players to enjoy themselves but he did enjoy those bicycle kicks a bit too much!"

West Ham fans might be surprised by Lebaillif's views, given that Payet has not looked one bit like the work-shy selfish footballer that he once was.

He looks to have as much steel as he does silk these days, and perhaps that is what has endeared him to the Irons faithful.

Payet might yet fire the East Londoners into the Champions League next season, too, with Bilic's side just one point behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who do have a game in hand.

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