The Payet & Bilić Fantasy Football Show has been a nicely managed farce.
The Frenchman shot himself into the hearts of happy Hammer fans last season and his agency was sure to cash in on his heroics.
Signing a contract extension and securing a million pounds in loyalty bonuses, the future looking bright for Dmitri.
He began the new season less than on fire, perhaps a hangover from the Euro’s in France were to blame. Maybe it was the security of a big money contract that dampened the fire in his belly? Maybe he just wasn’t that good? Or maybe he was the same inconsistent and capricious Dmitri Payet he’d always been?
While at Floriana we’d an issue with a young English player. Talented and intelligent, he seemed (in the words of Rico) more in love with being a footballer than being in love with football.
He never really caught fire with the club and without stability in the club or his life, he looked for a move. His agent peppered me with calls, asking for his release. He’d tried to speak with the Club President, but he refused to deal with agents.
Late one Tuesday evening the agent dropped the boom, we want a new contract. Double the money and three years. Using a friendly journo on Maltese TV, they also announced they’d received an offer on the table from our bitter rivals Valletta.
Incensed, the club called him into a meeting and signed his release. I couldn’t believe it. The club he went to had offered a decent five-figure sum to buy him, but in a fit of fury we’d kicked him out and lost money.
According to the club, Greenock Morton, half the fee that was on the table went to the player and his agent.
The Payet and Bilić Show moved up a gear when the good Slaven announced that Payet “does not want to play for West Ham.” This announcement from the West Ham manager came after some less than stirring outings from the Frenchman and rumours of discontent with how the club is being run. Moreso, it deflected from 2nd season syndrome. Slaven has been less than effective in his recruitment and squad management this season. His contract is up in June 2018 and unless there is a miracle, looks unlikely to be renewed. So getting rid of his most marketable and valuable player is a master stroke.
Lots has been written and said about The Payet & Bilić Show. How the player should show loyalty; How the player has rights. Some border on the insane and even Oliver Holt’s fine piece on the recent history of West Ham’s dealings can be recommended for the absolute and total lack of guts on display in the cozy sports industry – media relationship. He is 100% right, it is a twisted relationship, though even more than he cares to admit.
The excellent PR drive from the club, ably abetted by the media and Slaven Bilić are best illustrated by Holt’s colleagues. They reveal poor Dmitri earns 120,000 pounds a week, got his loyalty bonus and allege he threatened to fake injury. It’s perfect click-bait material, sells advertisements and allows us to ogle the celeb’s on the warm weather holidays.
In all the noise, lots of heat as been generated and no light. Sure there was a snide remark on how Slaven forced a move from West Ham to Everton 20 years ago and gratuitous scenes of West Ham branch of MENSA singing anti-Payet songs.
But nothing on the relationship between the player and his manager. Not one word has appeared or been spoken on how the Payet-Bilić relationship is a severe conflict of interest that has a long history with Slaven. Both are represented by the same agency.
Only the extremely naive or clinically brain dead would even try to say that there is no corruption in football. And of that minority, only a brave few will try to say that managers are not susceptible to the odd bung.
From George Graham to Harry Redknapp to Sam Allardyce to Alex Ferguson, there is a history of dodgy dealings between managers and agents. Some have family to blame (Ferguson and Allardyce), others plain old fashioned greed (Graham and Redknapp).
Slaven has always had a nice relationship with football agents going back to his days as Director of Hajduk Split’s Youth Football section.
All the way through his glory days as manager of his country’s Under-21’s and to the time when he squandered the best generation of talent since his own playing days while leading the Croatian Senior team. Money came first.
In 2012 Eamon Dunphy claimed, first, that Del Bosque was on 50k a year, he changed his tune to say he meant Bilić. While the Irish pundit flat out lied and was caught lying, Slaven was on around five times that amount.
What Eamon didn’t mention, through ignorance – willful or otherwise – was that Slaven had a sideline in capping players whose agents were amenable. Whether it was to increase a players price (a cap in a friendly is nothing unusual) or keeping a player in the squad as his agent has made a deal with the manager, is a norm. Outraged voices in the Croatian media were shut up and, in one case, banned from attending events. Nobody needed muck raked as it would end up covering more than a few. Slaven is a great front man and many front men have a base salary with high sales commission.
From Croatia through Russia to Turkey and now England, Slaven is intelligent enough to know that unless he goes out and makes business, it won’t come to him. He has strong representatives who also have Cavani on their books. These are power players with smaller development agencies under their umbrella. Yet as mentioned above, in all the heat, no light has been shed on the relationship between Slaven, Dmitri and their common representatives – Mondial Sports Management.
Marseille made an initial bid, we are told, of £19 million. The Hammers evaluation of their prize player they say is 30 million. After Slaven dumped his fellow MSM client into the reserves, the offer rose to 20-22 million.
Most recently the London club are reported to be ready to settle for 25 million. Where are these sums and stories coming from? From too many pints of London Pride? From the club? From Slaven or his and Payet’s agency? Or a combo of all three.
In the race to get the juiciest gossip and most click baitworthy stories out there, the truth is nowhere to be found.
Let me leave you with some predictions. How will this end up for all parties involved?
Slaven Bilić: Even if he saves West Ham from relegation, he still faces the axe. He’ll receive a three million pounds pay off and the next ambitious club will snap him up. He is a good coach and if he concentrates on football, can be genuinely brilliant. He’ll leave in the summer and pop up by autumn.
Dmitri Payet: He leaves for somewhere in the region of £25 million, then within two seasons heads to China (if they still have a league) or off to the MLS. A player of unfulfilled talent, he has the right agents to make millions, but will never leave without a whisp of acrimony trailing him.
West Ham United: The money will be squandered on buying/loaning more under-achieving strikers and the club will be sold off in 2-3 years.
MSM: They will continue to gather talented players from around the world and make their directors millions.
The Football Media: Will continue to facilitate corruption in football and wait for a fish in a barrel scandal to leave us all reeling in shock.
This is sport, The Payet and Bilic Show will entertain us for a while, at least until the next shocking revelation or overhead kick happens.