There's nobody better - or is there?

An interesting thread developed on the General Discussion forum this week.

Simply entitled 'Dimitri Payet vs Lucas Paqueta', it was to determine who out of the two mercurial talents was the favourite of whoever felt inclined to join in the debate.

For me I had no qualms over making an instant decision.

Lucas Paqueta, after a tricky start to life in east London has instilled himself into the hearts and minds of West Ham fans. Supporters of Lyon told us we’d be getting both a wizard and a warrior. They were right.

Blessed with great technique, skill, a sublime eye for a pass, no shortage of goals and the pleasing addition of a willingness to get his foot in, the Brazilian would appear to be a shoe in for the decision. But for me, he’s not.

I know his tenure ended in heart-breaking and somewhat acrimonious fashion, but Dimitri Payet was, for me, one of the best to ever don a claret and blue shirt.

We may have only got him because of Marseille's financial difficulties and, as it turned out, his love for the port city of Southern France could never be extinguished. His spell in east London may have been short, almost akin to a holiday romance. But in footballing terms, it was truly a case of "it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all".

In that 18-month tenure with us, we had the privilege of watching a player truly in his prime. The phrase "world class" is often bandied about, but Payet in that time period truly was. A Ballon D’or nomination proved to even the most cynical non Hammers that this was the case.

15 goals in 60 appearances, including a plethora of sumptuous goals. Twists, turns, pirouettes and mazy dribbles, he seemed to have It all. As his talent shone through, those around him grew in stature. There was "never beaten" mentality surging through the squad and fan base. If Dimi was on the pitch, anything could happen.

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And invariably it did. Just look at that free kick against Palace which defied physics. The double against Blackburn was simply majestic. In the FA Cup, the free kick at Old Trafford. 35 yards out. One of, at the time, the world’s best 'keepers protecting the net. But we believed. Such was the form the self-belief, the magic in those boots that as soon as he struck it, he knew it was in.

And as his club form excelled, it transposed to the French national side. His most sustained run of form for Les Blues was while a West Ham player. Seven of his eight international goals came in his time here.

Who could forget Slaven Bilic, climbing atop the ITV sport desk as his shining light banged in a trademark free kick against Romania, in the last minute of the opening game of Euro 2016? The tournament, the world was witnessing someone truly special. And he was an adopted son of E13.

Of course this being West Ham, things don’t run smoothly. The truth behind Dimi’s desire to leave has never been disclosed. Rumours circulated it was due to personal problems. Speculation about being dissatisfied with the club's transfer activity was mentioned.

Building a side around a genius with the likes of Tore and Nordveidt hardly smacks of ambition and desire. The discontent surrounding the move to Stratford was finally compounded when Payet downed tools and returned to Marseilles. We just didn’t understand.

He was perfection from a footballing point of view and the ideal soundtrack to our final season at the Boleyn. A player to light up a stadium that evoked so many memories. I bear no animosity. I’m just privileged to have witnessed it.

Payet was one of the very few players that, when he got on the ball, left the crowd buzzing with anticipation. An almost instaneous hush followed by that feeling of anticipation something special was about to transpire. Bar Payet, Only Paolo Di Canio and Alan Devonshire in his prime have offered that in my lifetime.

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As much as I love Lucas Paqueta, he doesn’t - yet, anyway - deliver that sensation. I truly hope he does. But I also have a nagging feeling he won’t stick around to fulfil it. Plus, a couple of his traits have begun to grate.

Coversely Mohammed Kudus seems to have the attributes to step into those shoes. He looks to be one of those players to get you out of your seat in excitement. But it’s early days. After having your heart torn apart by that fling of 2015/16, are we ready to try again? If one of those two can recreate that buzz of anticipation, I’m game.

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