West Ham United playmaker Dimitri Payet has hinted he is keen on a move to "fun" Arsenal, although he has denied speaking with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger about a move.
With the Hammers struggling in the lower reaches of the table for much of the campaign, speculation has been ramped up over Payet’s position at London Stadium. When asked about supposed interest from north London, he admitted he’d enjoy lining up in the Arsenal team.
"I read that Wenger considers me the missing piece of the Arsenal's game, but he's never told me that!" he said to RMC (via Ben Burrows of the Daily Mirror). "We conceded five or six at home against them. When you see them playing, as a technical player, you could only have fun in that team. They're candidates for the title every year."
Payet added that while he is fully behind the West Ham cause at the moment, he is "not closing the door to anything" in terms of a transfer. He also added "I've got some great years ahead of me, and I want to enjoy them by playing in important competitions," making reference to the UEFA Champions League.
Per Burrows, Arsenal have been linked with a possible swoop for the France international, as have Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.
While West Ham have been poor this term, as these numbers from Squawka Football illustrate, in Payet, they’re in possession of one of the most creative players in European football:
Last season, the former Olympique de Marseille man was a breath of fresh air for the east London club. Payet would always look to be positive on the ball and produced some absurd moments of skill for the Hammers in their final campaign at Upton Park, helping the team to an impressive seventh-place finish.
However, Payet has been unable to replicate those standards in a struggling team this season. The 29-year-old still seeks to be inventive on the ball, but in matches when the team has needed to dig in and get through difficult spells, sometimes he's cut a disinterested figure.
At the moment he'd be more suited to a side like Arsenal, and it's easy to see Payet slotting in well to the Gunners' attack. The variety, intelligence and technical flair in their play could bring even more from the Frenchman.
However, West Ham need him as things stand. Per Jacob Steinberg of the Guardian, the midfielder has the potential to galvanise this group of players:
There is no pressure on the Hammers to move him on, either. Payet agreed a new deal during his first season at the club, committing until 2021 in February. It means a big fee will need to be received before they consider cashing in, especially in midseason.
A lot of teams, including Arsenal, may be hesitant to pay so much. While Payet's talent is beyond dispute, he doesn't have a long shelf life at the age of 29. Subsequently, if the Gunners are looking to spend big money to enliven their attack, they would likely look at a star with more longevity.