On January 12th, West Ham boss Slaven Bilic informed the press that Dimitri Payet wanted out of the club. The statement was followed by a firm declaration that he would not be sold, no matter the price.
“He’s definitely our best player and that’s why we gave him a long contract. We are not going to sell him.
“I spoke to the chairman and this is not a money issue. We aren’t going to sell him, not whatsoever. It’s not a money issue or anything. We want to keep our best players.”
"We are not going to sell him, not whatsoever"
Owner David Sullivan asserted as much in his programme notes in their next game, where the Frenchman refused to play, saying:
“The Board's position is that we do not want to sell Dimitri, we do not need to sell Dimitri for financial or any other reasons, and we will NOT sell Dimitri in the January transfer window.”
Flash forward to February 1st, the day after the winter window closed, and Payet can be found in a Marseille shirt as West Ham moan about feeling let down and disappointed in the Frenchman.
But should they be looking closer to home?
The public refusal of the mere idea of selling Payet isn’t too dissimilar to David Moyes and Martin Bain’s repeated statement of intent over the future of Jermain Defoe.
Yes, Defoe wasn’t actively seeking a way out of Wearside, but the interest was there, from West Ham no less.
The rumours were circulating as soon as the calendar changed, and Moyes immediately tried to quash them, saying:
“West Ham made one bid of £6m and we told them there was no deal. They did ask if there was a figure and we said ‘no’.
“We’re not talking about it because we don’t think there’s anything to talk about.
“Myself, Martin Bain, and Ellis Short are in agreement - categorically, Jermain Defoe is not for sale.”
It was one of a number of similar press conferences to the same effect – Sunderland had no interest in selling their star man.
It reassured fans worried about losing their only hope of staying in the Premier League, and was a breath of fresh air in terms of honesty with those in the stands.
Naturally, there was always the worry in the back of the mind that something could happen late on, but West Ham got the message and that was that.
The transfer window was far from brilliant on Wearside and we’re still lacking in attack, but Sunderland’s best bit of business was keeping Defoe in the North East, and Moyes and Bain deserve praise for that.
West Ham knew of Payet’s position early on. The Frenchman was on strike, desperate to force a move back to his former club and had allegedly become a toxic influence in the dressing room. None of that had changed when Slaven Bilic first insisted he’d be staying.
Sunderland, on the other hand, stuck to their guns. They refused to sell and that may just keep Moyes in a job come the end of the season, something which may not be true of Bilic.