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West Ham failed Dimitri Payet by not building around him

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Many knew that West Ham had pulled off a coup by signing Dimitri Payet last summer, but it wasn’t clear until a year later what a rare gem they’d found.

After Payet’s stunning debut season in the Premier League, a season that saw him score nine goals and assist 12 more while dazzling England with his brilliant technical ability and sparkling distance shooting, he now finds himself suddenly unwelcome at the gates of West Ham’s new home.

With West Ham 13th in the Premier League table and struggling for consistency, Payet has stunned Hammer fans by refusing to play for the club and asking for a transfer.

From nearly all angles, this is a horrible look from a player who was rescued from Marseille by Slaven Bilic and brought back to life during his time at West Ham. It appears on the surface that the player has turned his back on a club and fanbase that embraced him when life was good. Bilic wasn’t even asked about Payet when he revealed the situation, he simply went off in a press conference, a rare situation that describes just how betrayed by Payet the manager feels.

But a deeper dive into West Ham’s recent past shows why Payet has become disenfranchised just half a season later and why the player may not be shouldering all the blame despite the ugly optics.

This summer, West Ham found itself the proud owner of a legitimate franchise player; a player who suddenly burdens the club with his own expectations. This is not to say Payet gave West Ham any sort of ultimatum, but in this situation, the Hammers now have the expectation to be good enough for such a player. It is the responsibility of the club to perform to the standards of the player, just as it is the responsibility of the player to bring the club his best. In short: they must build around their superstar. We see countless times a club’s best player leave because that club was either relegated or fell below the player’s ambitions.

Dimitri Payet proved last season that he’s better than 13th place in the Premier League, and he’s proving this season that despite the club’s struggles, he is still as good as he was. As a Player of the Season candidate, it’s obviously his responsibility to replicate that form, and he has, leading the Premier League in chances created and key passes and rated the 5th best player in the league by Squawka’s rankings.

Here is where West Ham failed the Frenchman: it is also on the club to provide him with the best environment to replicate that form. Let’s review the ways West Ham went about that process this past summer:

  • They purchased Andre Ayew for $26 million, by all accounts a solid purchase at the time – if not an expensive transaction – but one that has not paid off at all. Ayew has battled injuries and poor service to the return of a single goal in 12 appearances.
  • They spent $13 million on Manuel Lanzini, a player expected to pull some weight off Payet’s shoulders in the attack. Instead, he’s been a significant disappointment as well, dazzling the crowd at times, but coupling those performances with his fair share of horror shows.
  • West Ham spent $8 million on Arthur Makuatsu, a forced purchase after starting the season without a healthy left-back. Makuatsu was bad and then got hurt, and has made just six appearances thanks to the return of Aaron Cresswell.
  • They brought in Sofiane Feghouli, Alvaro Arbeloa, Ashley Fletcher, and Havard Nordveit on free transfers. Feghouli has been good at times but hasn’t been consistent enough to see the field, the 33-year-old Arbeloa has been hurt, Fletcher hasn’t made the squad, and Nordtveit has struggled with discipline.
  • They brought in Simone Zaza, Gokhan Tore, and Jonathan Calleri on loan. Zaza couldn’t even muster a single goal before getting hurt and wanting out, Tore was a solid get but got injured early, and Calleri hasn’t started once and hasn’t seen the field since October.

There’s no doubt the Hammers have had horrible injury luck this season, with Gokhan Tore’s knee operation maybe the most difficult to swallow, but the bottom line is this: the Hammers didn’t do nearly enough this summer to prove they mean business. While other clubs around them got better, West Ham instead looked for value buys and spent big on flops. Subsequently, they have felt the difficult consequences to their actions. The defense has been porous and the service up front has been limited. Dimitri Payet’s 72 chances created are an enormous 52 more than anyone else in the West Ham squad and represent 35% of the team’s total of 204. Simply put, it’s on Payet to do it all, and that’s why he wants out.

Make no mistake that Dimitri Payet’s decision to distance himself from West Ham still reflects poorly on his character. As the second time he’s pushed for a transfer away from a club of significant size (also pushing his way out of Marseille when West Ham came calling), this is clearly heavy baggage he is now forced to lug around the rest of his career. However, the club is not absolved of blame in this situation. Who knows what promises were made to Payet when he signed a contract extension this summer through the summer of 2021. With a new stadium meant to catapult West Ham “to the next level,” little attention was paid to the future product on the field. Fans should be just as disappointed with the board and staff as they are with the player.

Real Madrid come from behind to win in Club World Cup semis

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Real Madrid made things on Wednesday a bit more complicated than they would have preferred, but the two-time defending European champions are through to the final of the Club World Cup for the second straight year.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million ]

Zinedine Zidane’s men came from behind to beat United Arab Emirates side Al Jazira (winners of the U.A.E. Pro League, the tournament’s host country), courtesy of second-half goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, 2-1 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Al Jazira held a 1-0 halftime lead, thanks to Romarinho’s opening goal in the 41st minute. The advantage lasted just a dozen minutes, though, as Ronaldo used Madrid’s first genuine chance of the game to bring Los Blancos back onto level terms in the 53rd minute. Luka Modric slipped the Portuguese superstar through, and the recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner finished with ease to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: West Ham targeting Wilshere in January transfer window ]

The winner didn’t come for quite some time after that, as Madrid were made to wait — and work — for their place in Saturday’s final, where they’ll face Brazilian side and Copa Libertadores winners Gremio. Bale had only just come off the bench seconds earlier, when Lucas Vazquez cut the ball back for Bale to hit it hard and low past the goalkeeper.

The Welshman nearly made it 3-1 with four minutes to go in regular time, but his scissor from the edge of the box was saved to deny Madrid a stunning insurance goal very late on.

Madrid are aiming to become the first side to win back-to-back Club World Cup titles after beating Kashima Antlers, 4-2 after extra-time, in the 2016 final.

Watch Live: Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs in action

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Seven Premier League games are coming your way from 2:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Manchester City head to Swansea looking to extend their winning streak to a record-breaking 15-straight in a season, while Manchester United host Bournemouth and Tottenham welcome Brighton to Wembley. There’s a big London derby between West Ham and Arsenal, while Liverpool host West Brom, in-form Leicester head to Southampton and struggling Newcastle clash with Everton.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for the seven games on Wednesday is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


Wednesday’s Premier League schedule

2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM

3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Copa Sudamericana finals, leg 2: Flamengo vs. Independiente

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Germany’s players have big-money incentive to win World Cup

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BERLIN (AP) Germany’s players will each receive $410,000 bonus if the team defends its World Cup title next year in Russia.

The German soccer federation says it has agreed to a performance-related bonus system for the team, as it did for the successful 2014 World Cup campaign and the last two European Championships.

Bonuses will only be paid upon reaching the quarterfinals, when each player would receive $90,000. That will increase to $150,000 for reaching the semifinals, $175,000 for third place and $235,000 for reaching the final.

Only Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962) have won back-to-back World Cup titles.