West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has asked Dimitri Payet to treat criticism as compliment as he tries to get the best out of the French midfielder whose future at the Premier League club appears uncertain.
Payet, who signed a five-year contract in February, made a fine start to his West Ham career last season as he scored nine Premier League goals and claimed 13 assists to propel the club to finish seventh, their best league finish since 2002.
The 29-year-old’s struggle to rediscover the same form this season has drawn criticism from the fans but Bilic called it back-handed compliment.
“I see Messi or Ronaldo. If they don’t score for two games they are criticised…” the Croatian told The Times.
“It’s a compliment of course. He (Payet) should be like: ‘They are not criticising me, they are expecting much more from me’. Why are they expecting of me much more? Because I am Payet. And because of what I have done last year in the same league.'”
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Payet has scored only once in the opening 11 league games as West Ham sit 17th in the table, a point above the relegation zone, but media reports suggested several clubs across Europe are interested in the midfielder.
“We have enough quality. If one or two more come back from injury like we are expecting they will, then we can improve from the last game… It’s a tough time for us,” Bilic added.
The Hammers play fifth-place Spurs on Saturday at White Hart Lane and then travel to Old Trafford to face sixth-placed Manchester United before hosting fourth-placed Arsenal at the brand-new London Stadium.