By Matt Farr
French league leaders Nice have joined the race to sign West Ham playmaker Dimitri Payet this month, according to a report.
Rivals Marseille have been locked in a battle with the Hammers for the midfielder’s signature, with the 29-year-old requesting a move back to his homeland.
But they have yet to meet West Ham’s valuation of the player, and have had two offers rejected by the English club.
However, the Mirror believe that Nice have now emerged as a possible destination for the wantaway star. It is believed that West Ham are considering a deal that would see Payet move to Nice on loan.
West Ham have been reluctant to let Payet join Marseille, because they do not want to let one of their star players leave on the cheap. However, they would still like to get his £125,ooo-a-week wages off the books.
Nice have been flying high in Ligue 1 this season, and are currently a point clear at the top of the table after 21 games. They have been defeated just once in the league this term, and are now looking to bolster their squad in a bid to maintain their challenge for both the title and a Champions League place.
If Nice can maintain their current form, a move to the club would be a viable option for Payet, who is not likely to win back the fans at West Ham.
After refusing to play for the club again, Payet has been exiled from the first-team squad, and has been forced to train either with the reserves or alone.
The fans have made their feelings known about the midfielder’s continued disloyalty, and the Daily Mail reported on Thursday that Payet’s car and home had been targeted by vandals.
Football Insider verdict
So far it has looked Marseille or bust for Payet. His disloyalty to West Ham, and poor attitude over the course of the season may have put off many other potential suitors – because his unquestionable talent is not the issue. Payet will be allowed to join Marseille, but only if the finances on the deal are right, and so far that has not been the case. Yet while West Ham may not prefer a loan deal, Nice have a strong chance of coming to an agreement with the Hammers this month. Their new Chinese and America investors have given Nice a new lease of life in the finance department, and that would enable them to attract Payet to the club. They appear to be waiting to see how the talks with Marseille go before making an approach themselves, but the Frenchman could have a massive impact on Nice’s surprise title bid in the second-half of the campaign, and they should waste little time by opening discussions with Slaven Bilic.