Slaven Bilic believes Dimitri Payet’s stunning free-kicks for West Ham this season have put him in the same bracket as David Beckham.
Payet has scored from three spectacular efforts from outside the area in the last month alone, following up a 30-yard free-kick at Manchester United in the FA Cup with a carbon copy for France against Russia before arguably topping the lot with his looping, dipping shot into the opposite corner against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Beckham made his name as a free-kick specialist with United and England, his most famous effort coming against Greece to fire the Three Lions to the 2002 World Cup.
And Bilic feels his £10.7million signing from Marseille is now in the same league as ‘Goldenballs’ himself.
“They are both great free-kick takers,” said the Hammers boss. “You can’t say that anyone was better than Beckham at taking free-kicks.
“But then again you can say the same thing about Dimitri this season. In no time we can name five or six great ones.
“The last one was unbelievable. Then for France, (at) Old Trafford and then (against) Blackburn and Bournemouth. It all happened in a couple of months.
“The tempo he is putting them in is amazing.”
Payet is certain to take aim again should the Hammers be awarded a foul within 30 yards of goal when Arsenal visit Upton Park on Saturday.
Bilic says the midfielder’s only problem now is that every time he steps up to take one he is expected to score – even in training.
“A couple of days ago he put the ball down and now everybody – even the groundsman – is expecting every time he shoots to put it in the top corner,” said Bilic.
“And if it isn’t in the top corner then all of us are quite disappointed.
“He is not one of those players who is always practising them for 20 minutes after training, but every time he has a chance in a small break between the exercises he likes to try to bend them.”
Bilic has a fully-fit squad to face the Gunners as West Ham attempt to maintain their bid for a top-four finish.
Cheikhou Kouyate is available after his red card against Palace was rescinded.