London - When West Ham are awarded a free-kick, you can feel the anticipation around the ground as Dimitri Payet walks over to the ball.
The guy is sensational from these situations, as he reminded us all on Wednesday night with a 96th-minute beauty to knock Accrington Stanley out of the EFL Cup. You could say the keeper might have done a bit better with it, but for Payet to pull that out of the bag so late, with the game on the line, was superb.
I see kids on a Sunday morning trying to copy the ‘knuckleball’ method used by Cristiano Ronaldo — where hitting the ball on the valve causes it to move unpredictably. But Payet’s technique is a throwback to the way David Beckham would take them, generating curl and whip with the instep. He gets his body at such an angle that he also creates topspin to make the ball dip, like a table tennis shot, which makes the keeper think it’s going over until it flies in under the bar.
It’s remarkable how consistent he is, too. He nearly always tests the keeper or threatens the goal, whereas when Ronaldo steps up you get the feeling it could end up in Row Z!