West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has described midfielder Dimitri Payet as a “locomotive” and says that the Frenchman has every right to feel upset about not being called up into France national team squad.
Payet recently spoke out about not being called up by manager Didier Deschamps, saying the decision to not select him was an injustice.
I feel as if it is an injustice. It is more than a year now that I am in the best form of my career, even if I can still get better. So, for me, it is unjust not to be in the France squad.
Slaven Bilic, who has experience of managing at international level after his spell in charge of his native Croatian national team, agrees with the assessment of Payet, and says the key to building a successful national team is to get the right mix of players.
Maybe if you are the coach of Germany then the criteria could be only players who have won the Champions League! When I was coach of Croatia, I didn’t have that possibility. It was much more important that the player is doing well and he would fit in my team. I divide the outfield players up as locomotives and wagons.
You can have five wagons and they are playing in great clubs, the Champions League and everything. One might play for Inter Milan, one for Real Madrid, one for Arsenal and so on. But they are not the main players at those clubs. And then you can have five players who are not playing for those big clubs but they are leaders in their teams. They are the main players who take responsibilities.
A mix is best but it is better to have that second group of players than the first. Payet is a locomotive. The quality of his performances — and the level of opponent he is doing it against — is amazing. For me, he should be in any national team. To be fair, France maybe has the biggest selection of quality players in Europe. But Payet did not come here as a new name. His last year in Marseille was great and he came here as a national team player, having played for France in June. Bilic also pointed out that you do not need a team or squad filled with players from Champions League clubs in order to have a successful national team, and pointed to his own personal experiences as an example of how players from less established clubs can come together on the international stage.
Bilic also pointed out that you don’t need to have a team or squad filled with players from ‘bigger’ clubs in order to build a successful national team, and he pointed to his own personal experiences as both a player and a coach to demonstrate how this can be the case.
You don’t have to play in the Champions League to have a successful international career. I didn’t. Look at the team from the 1998 World Cup which won the bronze medal. We played with three at the back. It was me, Igor Stimac from Derby and West Ham and Zvonimir Soldo from Stuttgart. None of us played in the Champions League but the three of us were the players who were among the two or three leaders at our clubs. We won the bronze medal because we were strong characters on the pitch. We were players that the manager called up to speak to if things were going well or not.
After that, Croatia had a defence made of players who played for AC Milan, Juventus and other Champions League clubs but they were either not regulars or not leaders. Of course, there is a difference if one guy is playing in the Croatian league and the other is at Manchester United. But even then, I had three or four Croatian-based players in the team I managed and we still beat England twice in qualifying for Euro 2008.