Real Madrid’s charm offensive towards West Ham star Dimitri Payet has begun with Zinedine Zidane claiming “he would improve any side in Europe”.
Payet, 29, has been France’s star man at Euro 2016 and the midfielder playmaker, who has scored twice in the group stages, is also the bookies’ favourite to be named player of the tournament.
That has not gone unnoticed by the whole of Europe and Madrid boss Zidane has lavished praise on the player, who he now claims is “getting the respect he deserves”.
Zidane said: “It is a great story – he (Payet) has always always had talent, but now at 29 he is getting the respect he deserves.
“There is so much pressure on young players to perform on the biggest stage, Dimitri has shown things don’t always have to happen early.
“When he wasn’t in the French team he never gave up, and now he is proving he is one of the most important and talented players, not just in the French side, but in Europe.
“He had an incredible season with West Ham, and now at the Euros is showing that no occasion is too big for him. He would improve any side in Europe, that is how talented he is.
“From a coach’s perspective he is everything you look for in an attacking midfield player.
“He can score goals, he can create goals, he has real quality from set pieces. Any club would want him, he is improving all the time.”
Zidane’s comments follow a familiar Madrid tactic of talking up their transfer targets before signing them as they have done in the past with former Tottenham duo Luka Modric and Gareth Bale.
And the La Liga side have a fantastic record of success with that approach which will have West Ham, who have reportedly slapped a £60million price tag on the player, nervously awaiting the return on their star man after the conclusion of Euro 2016.
Payet, who will return to France’s starting XI for Sunday’s last-16 tie against Republic of Ireland, only signed a new £125,000-a-week contract until 2021 in February this year, but that is unlikely to halt the advances of Real.