Dimitri Payet’s first experience of a major continental final with Marseille was not a positive one, with the winger replaced after picking up the injury in the first half of his side’s 3-0 loss to Atlético in the 2018 UEFA Europa League tie-breaker. Four years later, the 35-year-old may still have a chance to make amends, with OM taking on Feyenoord for a place in the UEFA Europa tie-breaking opener Conference League.
Since leaving the peaceful island of Reunion for Nantes, Payet has experienced a lot, with his two spells in Marseille separated by 18 months in England with West Ham. However, after scoring one of the greatest goals in UEFA Europa Conference League history in the quarter-finals, he hopes to leave the club’s passionate fans with something else to remember him by.
By facing Feyenoord in the semi-finals
I think we are well prepared for it after our trip to Greece with the passionate crowd [at PAOK]. We expect a very difficult match, which they will be under pressure to win. It is therefore up to us to approach this match as we have the others: play our game and try to make it as difficult as possible for them.
If I have the chance to play in a European final, I will give my all. That’s the goal: to play two matches and then be able to play in the final. You also have to do well in the league and try to juggle the two competitions.
On what he expected when he joined Marseille for the first time from LOSC in 2013
[I was expecting] a significant challenge. I expected to join a big club, the biggest French club, with all that goes with it: the expectations of the supporters and the daily pressure. Also, the fact that I would have to play with that in mind and earn my place in a well-composed team at the time too. This raised more questions than it relieved me.
I realize [now] that expectations grow over the years. I currently live near the stadium in Marseille. Fans continually remind me of individual games, what happens at the end of the season and so many other things. There is always something to say about OM. Living in Marseille, it is impossible to escape this passion.
Dimitri Payet file
Born: March 29, 1987, Saint-Pierre, Reunion
Appearances/goals in UEFA club competitions: 62/14
International appearances/goals: 38/8
On his development as a player
I’ve been through so much in the last 10-15 years. I don’t think I was as good when I was 20 as I am now, because I wasn’t experienced or mature or crafty enough, but I grew up because I was wrong. I made mistakes, I fell several times and it allowed me to become stronger mentally, to be calmer and to approach situations differently.
I’m not a captain at heart. What made me wear the armband was time and experience. I share it with Steve [Mandanda]. I’m more of a leader on the pitch. I give speeches but it’s rare, only when I feel it’s really useful. I’m more of a big brother: I give advice. We have great young players and we have to guide them so they can take us far because they are our future.
On his magnificent strike against PAOK
Honestly, in this position and at this distance, I haven’t succeeded that many times. It’s more something you try in training or when we focus on finishing. But I think that night I was in the right place at the right time and shot the right way. It’s successful because I think I can try a few more times and it won’t be as good. I appreciate it because it’s a goal that people will remember and it’s a goal that mattered.
We talked about it in the locker room. I took the photo casually, as if it was during training. I think that feeling of relaxation makes the movement fluid. I couldn’t have hit better. He bounced forward; he sat perfectly for a left-footed shot. It was a tough move but I did it without pressure and I think I scored because I was relaxed when I shot.
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