West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has warned potential suitors, including Chelsea and Manchester United, star midfielder Dimitri Payet is not for sale, amid rumours the club is preparing an improved wage offer.
Per the Sun (h/t Daily Star's Alex Harris), the Hammers fear the growing interest from some of the Premier League's giants, but Bilic is adamant the Frenchman isn't going anywhere:
There is no money in the world that would persuade us to let him go. He is not for sale to any club - never!
In previous seasons we were a selling club, I know that. But we are moving to a new stadium and we are talking and acting like we are going to try to go upwards as a club. For me, the most important thing regarding that is not to sell your best players.
So Payet to be sold - no way! He is our player, we want him to stay and he’s staying.
The 28-year-old currently makes £70,000 per week, according to Harris, terms both United and Chelsea could easily blow out of the water.
Payet joined West Ham last summer and has made a big impact on the club, scoring six goals and adding four assists in the Premier League so far, per WhoScored.com. More impressive than those statistics has been his constant movement and strong dribbles, which have opened up acres of space for his team-mates.
During his short time with the club, the Frenchman has become a cult hero in east London, seamlessly fitting into the Hammers' philosophy, which stands out from the rough backdrop of that part of the city, per ESPN FC's John Brewin:
If winning is important, then equally so is entertaining the home crowd at West Ham. Perhaps moving the club this summer to Stratford's Olympic Stadium might one day convert the team into the sort that competes for Premier League titles, but instead of that, the Cockneys and Essex boys who make up the Hammers' support have asked for their football players to decorate a tough part of the capital city with flair and elegance.
Given his success with the club, one may think Payet would have few reasons to leave shortly after making the move to the Premier League. But he's already 28 years old, at the peak of his powers, and the chance to show his abilities for one of the top clubs in the country before he starts to deteriorate could prove too good to pass up.
West Ham have plans of joining the Premier League's elites, and the move to their new stadium will be the next step in that evolution. Keeping hold of star players will be key to the process, however, and that goes for young talent like Reece Oxford as well as veterans like Payet.
Chelsea would love to add a proven, productive midfielder who has already shown he can hold his own in the Premier League, but as things stand, Payet will prove a difficult target.
Ousmane Dembele Race Heating Up
According to Simon Jones of the Mail on Sunday, Leicester City have become the latest club to join the hunt for Rennes starlet Ousmane Dembele, with Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Southampton reportedly also interested.
The 18-year-old is seen as France's next top export and has already scored five goals and added two assists in Ligue 1 this season, despite making just five starts, per WhoScored.com.
Blessed with pace, technique and remarkable vision for such a young player, the winger already looks like a future star, and it's easy to see why so many Premier League clubs are following him. Here's a look at some of his highlights:
Dembele is still a raw prospect who could improve his decision-making in the attacking third, but for a teenager, his development is already quite impressive. While he would need some more seasoning before he could make a real impact in the Premier League, he's closer than most players would be at his age.
Chelsea have gathered an impressive amount of talent over the years in their bid to get younger, loaning countless youngsters to clubs around the continent in an attempt to further their development.
A player like Dembele would fit the bill, although he might prefer to stay with Rennes or move to a club where he would be able to make an immediate impact, before chasing a move to a giant like Chelsea.