Every post-game report from Upton Park last night heavily features Dimitri Payet. His two-goal contribution and overall performance put him front and centre of West Ham’s win and, really, of everything else that they’ve done well this season.
Pretentious as it will probably sound, though, Payet doesn’t really belong in analysis pieces or minute-by-minute blogs.
Yes, football is about winning and losing and at the professional level it’s undeniably centred around goals and accumulating points, but it is still just a game and when fans go to grounds they still want to be entertained.
That’s what Payet is: an entertainer.
Not in the clownish sense and not because he’s an overly-elaborate player who is self-indulgent for the sake of it, but because his ability is so pure.
His tactical value to Slaven Bilic is clear and the combination of his distribution, work-rate, and goals has quickly endeared him to everyone in the East End but, but he’s also someone who - in the traditional sense - is just a lot of fun to sit down and watch.
Actually, he’s the kind of footballer who makes you want to go to games and the sort who makes you disregard the artificial obstacles that exist between you and the stadium.
“The train will cost me a fortune, the tube will be awful and the only seats left cost over £50…but I do really want to see Payet live.”
That kind. In fact, if he was juggling a ball alone in a park, dog-walkers and runners would probably stop to watch.
Everything about the way he plays is satisfying. Contradictory though it sounds, he is in equal measures extravagant and economic. He doesn’t take two touches when one will do, his play is as elegant as it is efficient, and even the little flourishes in his game - the little tricks - have an obvious purpose which has nothing to do with self-celebration.
Although literal descriptions of his performances are really beside the point, his first goal last night typified him: it was so crisp and watchable. Side-footing a moving ball into the top-corner from that sort of range shouldn’t look that easy, but he dispatched that chance with such casual perfection that it looked like something that everybody should be able to do.
Minimal backswing; gentle contact; perfect end result.
It’s a cliche to say this, I know, but what a pleasure it is to watch him. He’s not an attacking-midfielder, inverted-winger, or a supporting forward, he’s just a Footballer with a capital “f”.