The word LEGEND gets thrown around far more than any football fan’s liking, however, Paolo Di Canio would be one of those players who epitomizes the stature of a true Football Icon.
Although Di Canio was never far away from a controversy or an altercation with his manager, former West Ham great made a huge name for himself for being a big-match player.
Back in the day, Di Canio’s presence or absence ended up being the difference between a win or a defeat for West Ham. Ever since Di Canio’s Upton Park exit, no player was able to make an impression like him until this season when Dimitri Payet walked through the doors at Upton Park.
Even Di Canio took best part of couple of seasons to assert himself as a key player for West Ham, however, Payet has been at the club for only nine months and he is already an indispensable figure for The Hammers.
The 28-year old playmaker was signed for £10.7million which was seen as a gamble at the time but now looks like the biggest bargain of the season. Payet’s influence on Slaven Bilic’s team can be seen from the fact that when he misses a game, West Ham’s win percentage drops to 14.7% as compared to the 50% when he starts.
This stat is all so similar to West Ham’s 22% win percentage when Di Canio missed their games as compared to 39.3% win rate when the Italian was there to run his magic.
With Di Canio, Hammers averaged 1.4 goals per game. Without him, it dropped to 0.9 which is again similar to Payet’s numbers as well.
With Payet, West Ham score 1.9 goals per game but without him it drops to a shocking 0.7 per game.
At present, Payet is West Ham’s ticket to European football much like the 1998-99 season when Paolo Di Canio lead them to the UEFA Cup with a 5th place finish in the league. Hammers are on course to achieve yet another European appearance which has been largely down to Payet’s brilliance.
Other than their starry contributions to West Ham, their playing styles are very much similar as well. Like Di Canio, Payet’s first touch is immaculate and when he charges at the defenders there is only one winner.
Payet’s vision and the uncanny habit of finding his teammates from tight angles is very much like Paolo Di Canio. Another similarity between the duo is their prolific goal scoring. Di Canio scored 48 goals in 118 matches with an average of a goal almost after every 2.5 games.
Payet this season has scored 12 goals in 36 appearances which is a goal after every 3 matches. Their resemblance and the immediate impact on Hammers’ fortunes are for everyone to see and it would not be an overstatement to say that West Ham have finally found their new Paolo Di Canio in Dimitri Payet.
Speaking of which, the great Italian was asked to comment on West Ham’s latest sensation and Di Canio had only good things to say about the French star. Di Canio said: “Payet is a fantastic footballer. He can be a cracker for a few years to come,” Di Canio said.
“He works hard for the team, off the ball as well as on it. Look at the top footballers, the ones who play for Arsenal or Manchester City, and they are not doing it like Payet. That proves that he is a very talented player.
Image Credit: Getty, Stats Credit: Opta