Arsene Wenger says he watched Dimitri Payet “many times” before West Ham signed the midfielder from Marseille.
Payet has been a revelation in his first season in England, contributing 12 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, but Wenger is not surprised by the form of a player he first watched at Saint-Etienne between 2007 and 2011.
“He was a top talent, always, but had periods of being up and down,” Wenger said.
“I’ve looked at him many times. I’ve known him for a long time. He played at Saint-Etienne and we watched him many times.
“I think he has all the attributes to be a top player, which he is, but he’s 29 years old already. He’s matured a lot and come back into the national team, which shows he was more consistent.”
Payet has arguably been West Ham’s most eye-catching performer of the season, but Wenger acknowledges there is several threats in a team only seven points behind Arsenal and chasing a European place.
“I think the emergence of Dimitri Payet has given West Ham a lot of creativity and efficiency,” Wenger added. “[With] Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Manuel Lanzini and Payet they have a strong midfield and a good striker with Diafra Sakho.
“That makes them efficient and that is not a coincidence. They have had a very good campaign but when you look at the quality of the players they have, individually they have a good midfield, good strikers and they are solid at the back.”