How has Dimitri Payet fared on his return to Marseille?
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 17/01/18 2:33pm
This time last year Dimitri Payet was preparing to return to Marseille after a protracted move from West Ham United, but how has the mercurial playmaker got on back at the Stade Velodrome?
Two years after leaving the Ligue 1 club, Payet re-joined Marseille for £25m on the final day of the 2017 January transfer window, with the 30-year-old agreeing a four-year deal in the south of France.
Payet, who scored 15 goals in 60 appearances in a season and a half with Slaven Bilic's side, signalled his departure from West Ham by tweeting "we're going home," although the jury is still out on how successful his homecoming has actually been.
Here, we look at the player's past 12 months with Marseille and France…
For now, it's a failure in terms of stats and influence on the pitch
La Provence journalist Alexandre Jacquin, Nov 2017
How has Payet performed?
It did not take long for Payet to score again for Marseille, with the midfielder finding the back of the net in a 2-0 home win over Guingamp on February 8, 2017.
The playmaker then reminded everyone of his skills with a trademark free kick against Dijon in April on his way to contributing five goals and three assists in 17 games in the second half of the 2016/17 campaign.
However, despite being named captain this season by head coach Rudi Garcia, Payet has so far struggled to replicate the impressive form he showed at West Ham or with France at Euro 2016.
Part of that is due to a hamstring injury that affected the start of his season and part owing to him being played on the left of a 4-3-3 by Garcia, with Payet having come in for plenty of criticism in the French media as a result of his off-colour displays.
A subsequent switch to a more central role by Garcia, though, has since seen the France international's influence grow, as seen by sensational recent strikes against Troyes and Strasbourg.
Those were Payet's only two goals for Marseille so far this campaign, however, while he has six assists to his name as well.
What do the stats say?
Payet's improved form is borne out by the fact that on average he has laid on more key passes per match (4.3) than any other player in Europe's top-five leagues this season.
Meanwhile, only Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar, Man City's Kevin De Bruyne and team-mate Florian Thauvin have created more big chances than the playmaker in the continent's major leagues in 2017/18.
But have Marseille improved with Payet in the team?
Frank McCourt claimed he would put the "club back on the road to glory" when he bought Marseille in October 2016, with Payet's signing meant to help the American businessman achieve that.
However, despite the Frenchman's initial positive impact on his former club after making his second debut against Lyon on January 31, 2017, Marseille could only manage a fifth-placed finish in Ligue 1 last season.
Things have improved though this campaign, with Marseille currently second in the French top flight - albeit nine points behind runaway leaders PSG and having played a game more than the Parisians - and in the Europa League last 32.
How about his form for France?
Payet has been in and out of the France team since returning home and with the World Cup getting underway in June, his place in Didier Deschamps's squad for the tournament is far from certain.
"My personal objective is to be a part of this team, help qualify for the World Cup and then go there," he said last year. "I know there is competition in the squad and that, obviously, after the World Cup, with the emergence of this generation and these young talents, it will get much tougher for people my age."
However, with just one assist in a friendly against Paraguay in June since he re-joined Marseille, ongoing concerns over his fitness and form and stiff competition for places with the likes of Anthony Martial, Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Nabil Fekir, Payet faces a fight to get on the plane to Russia this summer.
What they said…?
"Dimitri was injured but has made a pretty good comeback. I won't forget what Dimitri has done for us. Despite the competition for a place, it seemed that recalling him was the right thing to do." (France manager Didier Deschamps, September 2017)
"Payet suffered a huge amount of pressure for a year, him leaving England, his return at Marseille. He was very exposed, he couldn't breathe. Maybe, subconsciously, he needed to let go a bit.
"Like everyone else, Dimitri needs to be 100 per cent. We would have to know where he is psychologically compared to the top level. How is he approaching future challenges? Does he still have that hunger?" (Elie Baup, who first signed him for Marseille, speaking to Le Parisien in Dec 2017)
"For now, it's a failure. A complete failure is a bit harsh, but it's still a failure in terms of stats, influence on the pitch, and the captain's armband doesn't exactly give him more weight in this team." (La Provence journalist Alexandre Jacquin speaking to Foot-Sur7 in Nov 2017)
What he said…
"I still have a little way to go, physically speaking. But the more I play, the better it gets. I've been playing a lot of matches in order to regain the rhythm I had lost while injured.
"It's never easy to bounce back from an injury at the start of the season or during pre-season, because you lose condition quickly when you don't play. But I've been playing quite a lot, which got me back on track, and I'm feeling better and better." (Dimitri Payet, October 2017)