Slaven Bilic has insisted that West Ham United keep hold of Dimitri Payet, amid rumours over a potentially lucrative offer from overseas. The French attacking midfielder has made a sizeable impact since moving to Upton Park from Marseille in a £10.7m ($15.5m) deal back in July 2015, contributing six goals and four assists in all competitions despite being sidelined for almost two months with an ankle injury.
Payet's stellar performances in English football have seen him become West Ham's most important player and widespread reports this week claimed the influential 28-year-old is demanding a new improved contract that would see his weekly wage rise to £125,000-per-week. The club have since released an official statement to deny those claims, although they did confirm that talks over an extension have begun and should be concluded shortly.
Chelsea and Arsenal are among the teams said to have developed an interest in Payet this term, while Sky now suggest that an unnamed outfit from China are willing to pay £38m to secure his services, having already pitched an attractive proposition to his representatives worth £7m annually. With Chinese president Xi Jinping reportedly pledging to create a domestic sport economy valued at $850bn by 2025, clubs from the country's top division have made headlines in recent weeks with big-money moves for a number of established players.
Ramires left Chelsea for Jiangsu Suning in a £25m deal in January, while striker Jackson Martinez has joined Guangzhou Evergrande. The Asian transfer record was broken for a third time last week as Liverpool target Alex Teixeira joined Jiangsu from Shakhtar Donetsk for £38.4m.
Such interest in Payet is inevitable, but Bilic has previously been vocal regarding his desire to see his star recruit stay put for the long term. He did so again on 9 February following the Hammers' last-gasp win over Liverpool in an entertaining FA Cup fourth-round replay, expressing his hope that the situation would be clarified soon.
"I'll say it again; we are a club moving forward and the most important moves are on the pitch," the Croatian was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "We must do everything we can to keep our best players, and he is our best player. He's happy here and very soon we will sort out his situation."
Payet was pivotal to that success over Liverpool, rattling the post with a first-half free-kick before providing the assist for Angelo Ogbonna's match-winning header in the dying moments of extra-time. West Ham will now travel to Ewood Park to face Championship side Blackburn Rovers in the last 16.