When Frenchman Dimitri Payet wrapped his foot around the kick that led to the goal that prompted national celebrations at the European Championship, he immediately put himself in among the continent’s elite.
Rumours inevitably swirled – and now they have taken the form of a Spanish newspaper report that the Frenchmen is loving the attention of Real Madrid and has the purring approval of manager Zinedine Zidane.
That attention has manifested itself in preparations for a £35million bid by the Spanish giants, home to Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, according to newspaper ABC , which has no further confirmation of such a move.
The West Ham Utd hierarchy have made it clear it has no intention of selling the Hammer of the Year and would think £35million too low a figure anyway. His agent Mark McKay, speaking before this latest bout of intrigue, said he was worth “ridiculous money”.
He confirmed that Payet wanted to stay at West Ham but added “football is football, so you never know”.
His national team-mate Paul Pogba has revealed that he is in talks about a world record £90million move from Juventus to Real Madrid, putting further distance between the Payet reports and the reality.
Meanwhile, the French star has credited a stronger defensive mentality as the bedrock of the host nation’s progress into the knock-out stages of the competition.
He said: “We’ve reached a new level in defence. I’d rather not concede a goal and score one in the 90th minute than concede two or three and have to go and score three or four.
“Because there is not a big gap between the teams, it’s hard to score three or more goals.”
Maybe Payet and his manager Slaven Bilic, over in France as a TV pundit, are on the same wavelength. The West Ham manager’s lavish – yet coy – praise for England’s tall centre back Chris Smalling triggered a flurry of claims that he’s after the Manchester Utd man.
It would be a trip back home for Smalling, who was born in Greenwich and had a short spell at the Millwall academy.