The 29-year-old playmaker has become a key part of Didier Deschamps' side after enjoying a superb first season in England.
Vieira was speaking to ESPN FC after watching Payet score the winner for France in Friday’s Euro 2016 opener against Romania in dramatic fashion, hitting a stunning 89th-minute strike to secure the hosts a 2-1 victory at the Stade de France.
The 29-year-old attacker, who has been capped 20 times by Les Bleus, was merely a bit-part player in manager Didier Deschamps’ plans 12 months ago, but he has since pushed his way into the starting XI thanks to a sensational first season at West Ham.
Signed from Marseille last summer for £10.7 million, the mercurial playmaker went on to record nine goals and 12 assists in 30 Premier League games, while also creating the second most chances in the division with 119 to help the Hammers secure a seventh-place finish and earn a nomination for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.
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His impressive form meant Deschamps essentially had no choice but to make him a key part of his side for the Euros and the former Ligue 1 star promptly showcased his worth in their Group A opener with a stellar performance, outshining the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann in the process.
Vieira was hugely impressed by his display on the night and believes his time in England has helped him become the kind of player who can lead the hosts to glory this summer.
“He was fantastic,” the former World Cup and European Championship winner told ESPN FC when asked about Payet’s performance. “I think everybody was expecting Griezmann and Pogba [to star], but he was the one who really drove the French national team. He was a leader on the field. Every chance that they created came from Payet
“In the last few years it was really difficult for him to get involved in the French national team. He decided to go to West Ham because he wanted to be part of the Euros. At the beginning of the season he was completely out of the team, but he had a fantastic season with West Ham and really drove the team. He was a leader there and that helped him to get into the national team.
“When you look at the experts before the start of the game giving their starting XIs, Payet was not in the team, so that was a really strong decision from Didier Dieschamps and it paid off because he was fantastic.”
The issue now for West Ham is whether they will be able to hold onto Payet for much longer given his rising reputation.
Reports are already doing the rounds that the Frenchman is attracting interest from Paris Saint-German and Chelsea [h/t The Telegraph], and if he continues to star at the Euros over the coming weeks, there could be plenty more clubs added to the list of potential suitors.