PSG miss out as Payet stays put

The last closing moments of the winter mercato have not been the greatest for Paris Saint Germain (PSG). The resurgence of the capital club has been the highlight of the season as Antoine Kambouare’s troops are sitting four points off of Ligue 1 sensation, Lille. This sudden rise would certainly have alerted clubs and turned foreign interest towards their star performers, as Sunderland came in with a bid for Stéphane Sessegnon. The Benin playmaker ultimately left, leaving the club to scramble for a new target before the close of the window. The player of Kambouare’s choice was Saint-Etienne starlet, Dimitri Payet.

In fact Sessegnon had become a marginalized figure in Antoine Kambouare’s squad. The Benin playmaker had been a permanent fixture the last couple of seasons but the arrival of Brazilian, Nene, had seriously cut his chances down. Indeed Sessegnon had managed 27 starts last season and 34 the season before that. This year however, he only had four starts and ten more upon which he came on as a substitute.

So the question must be, why would Kambouare try so hard to retain a player he barely uses instead of cashing in? The evergreen Ludovic Giuly has been another of Kambouare’s main fixture, managing 20 starts where he has played a part in nine of PSG’s goals with three goals and six assists. However the 34-year old can’t possibly last much more and the presence of Sessegnon as an impact sub was crucial in Kambouare’s squad. Kambouare clearly stated this in his attempt to foil Sunderland’s overtures when he said to the press: “I hope no one wants to leave, but even if they did the answer would be no . . . . We need everyone because they are not many of them.” In the end however, the money on offer and the unhappiness of the player were too much as Sessegnon ultimately made his way to Wearside.

Dimitri Payet, PSG’s target to replace the outgoing Benin star, would also be kicking his feet in an attempt to force a move as soon as he heard of PSG’s interest.  The French winger has made some waves in France this season, despite having been a fixture of Ligue 1 for quite some time now. Payet has begun to add goals to his repertoire as a player as he has scored eight Ligue 1 goals, only two less than he has in his entire career since starting at Nantes in 2006. It all began in what ultimately only proved to be a consolation goal in an opening day 3-1 loss to PSG. Payet followed with an explosive flourish a few weeks later with a winning hat trick against visiting Lens, as well as double against Montptellier and a winner against Lyon in successive weeks. Payet’s performances had even awarded him a substitute November appearance at Wenbley, in a friendly against England, which saw Les Bleus defeat the Three Lions by a 2-1 scoreline.  Given all these, it is no surprise that Kambouare looked at he budding French starlet as the perfect replacement for the departing Sessegnon.

Payet is only 23 years old, and thus we might say on course to fulfill his potential. The adding of goals to his game is a crucial bonus as well as a sign of his development. However the statistics are somewhat deceptive once scrutinized more closely. In fact, since a penalty against Nancy on October the 17th at the Stade du Ray, Payet has failed to register a single Ligue 1 goal. A 90th minute missed penalty the following week of that game in a 1-1 draw against Caen, only further highlighted his dipping goal-scoring form. In fact his entire game seems to have stagnated as of late, being less and less decisive during games. In effect, with the influx of goals this season, Payet’s assists count has suffered. Since being in Ligue 1, Dimitri Payet has averaged about 5.25 assists per season. This season, he can only count one to his name. Although the difference may seem forgivable, it does point at the ailing inconsistency that has always plagued Dimitri Payet’s game throughout his career. A mercurial talent he has always been and since a young age has always aimed at achieving greatness. With such genius always comes a bit of an edge however, which was most apparent during his younger days at Nantes where he was booked six times including one red card. A negligible disciplinary record but worth bringing up when we take in account that he has only averaged 1.6 yellow cards in the following seasons up to date, without a single expulsion.

Having ultimately missed out on their man, we must ask what Dmitri Payet would have brought to this PSG side. In fact Nene is still very much the talisman of the squad, so the Frenchman could have easily found himself eclipsed by the Brazilian’s commanding shadow. Since at Saint-Etienne, Dimitri Payet has for the most part been deployed as a winger, but given license to roam. This year however, he has been played closer to goal and in a slightly more central position, which has been the genesis of his early season goalscoring form. In fact this new role makes him an almost like-for-like replacement for Sessengnon. But is that in fact a good thing? If Sessegnon, given his talent and ability, struggled to get in Kambouare’s squad then why would Payet given his recent dip in form? Nene’s plays as a neuf et demi (nine-and-a-half) in Kambouare’s tactical setup, which is pretty rare in a two striker system. Payet could thus find himself crowded out as Nene and Guillaume Hoarau occupy most of the central positions and Melvut Erdinc likes to work the channels in coming off the right flank, where Payet does most of his good work.

Thus it may have been a blessing in disguise for Kambouare to have missed out on Payet and thus not have to accommodate a fourth member in the three-headed hydra that forms PSG’s attack. But the loss of such a player is also a missed opportunity as well it must be said. Dimitri Payet is a very talented and technically gifted player, who could have done well to join a big club and improve his game. He does have immense potential and a future in the national setup is not beyond the realm of possibilities, and playing at PSG could have only increased his chances. However Payet faces stiff competition, as he is a type of player that France has been producing in abundance as of late when we look at the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Mathieu Valbuena, and Jeremy Menez. What is for sure however, is that there is a bright future in front of him and his potential development could take him virtually anywhere. As Payet said in an interview, when still at Nante’s youth academy, when questioned about his future goals: “Je vise haut,” he replied pointing to the sky, meaning, “I am aiming high.”

The Author

Ogo Sylla

I am from Senegal, living in NY, and a huge Milan fan, although I think it'd be more fair to say I am a lover of football :D Growing up in francophone Senegal, I have had much exposure to Ligue 1 and I am a great fan of the league. I love the stories, the players and the drama of what is unfortunately an easily overlooked league.

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