Slaven Bilic hailed a magical display by Dimitri Payet after the France international inspired West Ham’s comeback victory at Bournemouth on Tuesday night.
The Hammers were trailing at the interval after Harry Arter scored his first Premier League goal.
But Payet, making his first start for West Ham in more than two months following a knee injury, pulled his side level after 67 minutes with a magnificent free-kick.
Seven minutes later he teed up Enner Valencia before the Ecuadorian scored a brilliant free-kick of his own to secure West Ham’s third league win in as many games.
“It was a team win but Payet made the difference,” said Bilic. “West Ham fans love that kind of player with a bit of magic and he has got more than a bit.
“What I admire most is his character, because that is what all true champions have got. When he makes a mistake – and I am talking about training here – he is crazy and angry at himself and that is what is makes him a leader.”
Payet joined West Ham from Marseille in an £11million move in the summer and immediately impressed before sustaining a knee injury at Everton on November 7.
“I don’t know why people are that surprised because he came from Marseille, and Marseille is one of the biggest clubs in Europe and he was doing similar things there,” Bilic added.
“Maybe we give him more responsibility and more confidence and he is enjoying it and we are enjoying him big time.
“But it is not only about his quality. He is deciding games, he is keeping the ball and he is doing the things which are very hard in football.
“He is taking the whole team 20 yards up the pitch without kicking the ball and that is important. He is also making all the players around him better.”
West Ham’s comeback victory, which sees them move above Manchester United into fifth in the table, was dampened by yet another injury to Andy Carroll.
The 27-year-old limped off after just 12 minutes with a hamstring problem, but Bilic hopes the injury is not too bad.
“It is a really bad situation for us,” Bilic added. “After the Liverpool win I said that he is back, he looked sharp, he looked strong and he was covering the whole pitch and terrorising the defence.
“So, it is a blow but he has been working really hard. Maybe or hopefully it is not that long. Maybe it is going to be a couple of weeks but we need him.
“He is disappointed because he knows he is back but if we have to choose between a knee and hamstring injury it is better to have a hamstring injury.”