Dimitri Payet: Speed is key for a No 10

When did you first realise you had speed?

When I was between eight and 10-years-old, I became aware that I was faster than other players my age. I remember a trial game I played in for a famous club in La Reunion — it was a game in which I felt that I was faster. I knew the opposition’s best defender was marking me. At each key moment during the game, I managed to be faster than him and I really unsettled him. At that very moment, I realised that if I was able to do that with this kind of defender, a quality player, it was something I had to do all the time to move forward with my game.


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Who did you watch growing up that inspired you and helped to solidify that thinking?

I had one role model: Ronaldinho. He had the perfect mix of speed and efficacy. He was the best player in the world and the example I tried to follow.

Were you motivated to try and improve your speed as you got older?

It is not a motivation when you play in my position, it is an obligation. To make the difference during games, you have to be faster than the defenders. As the quality of the opposition increases, you need to be faster to be superior.


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Do you think speed is just a physical attribute?

For me, speed on the pitch is not only based on running faster than other players. A fast player is one who can think quickly, make a move before the others; and, ultimately, make the right decision. In modern football, you have players like [Andres] Iniesta who isn't particularly fast, but he already knows exactly what to do with the ball - where he will distribute it - before he receives it. He always has time in hand.

How does speed help the modern No 10?

My role is to create. More directly, I have to either serve the strikers or I have to score myself. If I want to serve or score, I have to anticipate the flow of play. I need to analyse the situation very quickly — which requires a lot of work, training and experience.


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Can you describe a special moment where your speed made the difference in a game?

During a game against Saint Etienne, five years ago, I dribbled very quickly and then shot and scored. The defenders didn’t expect me to shoot when I did, that I would get it off so quickly. At that moment, I felt all the work I'd put in during training sessions had paid off; it was a great feeling of satisfaction.

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