High-profile former director of football Damien Comolli has revealed in an interview with the Mirror that he is surprised that West Ham United star Dimitri Payet has taken until so late in his career to fulfil his potential, and claimed that he has talent reminiscent of Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp and ex-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
That form saw him recognised by his peers with a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award, and also resulted in him reclaiming his place in the French national side ahead of Euro 2016.
To many, Payet appears to have burst onto the scene from nowhere at a relatively late stage in his career, despite having been an impressive star for several French clubs before his move to the Premier League.
One man who saw a lot of the midfielder in the early days of his career was Comolli, the former Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool director of football who served the same role at Saint-Etienne during Payet's time at the club.
Comolli insists he always knew Payet was a top-class player in the making, likening his ability to Arsenal and Liverpool legends Bergkamp and Gerrard, but admits that he is surprised at how long it has taken for the 29-year-old to reach the top of his game.
The 44-year-old told the Mirror: "I’m not surprised to see him doing so well. What has surprised me is that it has taken him until he was 29 to realise his potential.
"He should have been doing it at 24. In terms of the quality and purity of his first touch, the only player who I’ve seen like that is Dennis Bergkamp. He strikes the ball as well as Gerrard."
Payet's performances for both club and country have seen his stock rise hugely over the last 12 months, and he could yet seal the biggest achievement of his career if he can help propel France to Euro 2016 glory on home soil.
The French take on Germany this evening for a place against Portugal in this weekend's final.