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Payet returns to France amid West Ham fury

Marseille (AFP) – Dimitri Payet made a record-breaking return to Olympique Marseille on Monday leaving a bitter taste at West Ham United after going on strike to force a transfer.

The acrimonious divorce ended late Sunday when the French international signed a five season contract in a deal worth 30 million euros ($31.3m, £25 million). It is the biggest fee ever paid by Marseille.

The 29-year-old star of France’s Euro 2016 campaign got a hero’s welcome on his return to his former club. 

“We’re going home,” Payet tweeted alongside a photo of a small private plane with its door open at Marseille airport.

But West Ham gave an angry farewell to Payet who refused to play in a bid to force through a transfer.

“The club would like to place on record its sincere disappointment that Dimitri Payet did not show the same commitment and respect to West Ham United that the club and fans showed him, particularly when it rewarded him with a lucrative new five-and-half-year deal only last year,” said joint chairman David Gold in a statement.

“I would like to make it clear that we have no financial need to sell our best players and that the decision to allow Payet to leave was in accordance with the wishes of the manager and the interests of squad unity.

“To be frank, my board and I would have preferred for him to have stayed in order to make an example of him, as no player is bigger than the club.” 

Payet starred for the Premier League side last season scoring 12 goals but when the transfer window opened he refused to play as his priority was a return to France.

West Ham refused bids of £19 million and £20m, but having signed Scotland international Robert Snodgrass from Hull accepted a final offer of £25m (30 million euros).

Payet arrived in Marseille on Sunday. “After having satisfied the medical requirements Dimitri Payet on Sunday night signed his four-and-a-half year contract with Olympique Marseille,” the club announced.

Payet joined West Ham from Marseille for £10 million in 2015 and only last February signed a new £125,000 a week five-and-a-half-year contract.

Payet stunned West Ham boss Slaven Bilic this month when he declared he wanted to leave during the January transfer window and refused to play in a match against Crystal Palace.

Payet, who featured for France in last year’s Euro 2016 championships where they lost to Portugal in the final, had been demoted to train with the Under-23 side as he was frozen out by Bilic and his team-mates after his refusal to play.

He was erased from their WhatsApp team conversations and excluded from team dinners and had also attracted the ire of the fans.

His photograph outside the ground had to be guarded by a steward at home matches and the fans normal laudatory chant of him was replaced by abuse terms.

For Marseille, under their new American owner Frank McCourt, Payet represents a notable coup, the player arriving days after veteran French defender Patrice Evra turned up at the Velodrome on a free transfer from Juventus.

Marseille under coach Rudi Garcia are sixth in Ligue 1 following Friday’s 5-1 rout of Montpellier when former Manchester United stalwart Evra made his debut.

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