Former Barcelona and AC Milan star Ronaldinho was West Ham attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet’s idol growing up because of his combination of flair and effectiveness.
The two-time FIFA Player of the Year and World Cup-winning Brazil international helped Barcelona to two Liga titles and Champions League glory in 2005-06, providing inspiration for Payet during the early stages of his career.
Ronaldinho’s presence made the Spanish league a draw for the France international and he insists the style of football on offer under Slaven Bilic at West Ham fulfils his needs.
“Ronaldinho was my favourite player. People say he enjoyed humiliating defenders but he was always efficient,” said Payet.
“The reason I’m a fan is because he was able to put on a show while remaining effective and helping his team to win.
“Initially I was really attracted by the Spanish league. That was a league where all the clubs had a fluid game, playing their way forward from the back.
“As time went by I got more interested in watching the Premier League, as some of the teams there played that way too.
“When I arrived here I saw that Slaven Bilic’s aim wasn’t to just kick the ball away but to try to play a possession-based football style and that was very important.”
West Ham sit fifth in the Premier League with nine games left, two points away from a qualifying berth for next season’s Champions League.
Bilic’s team could secure a place in the FA Cup semi-finals if they overcome Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, and former striker Geoff Hurst – part of the trophy-winning side of 1964 – has backed them to do just that.
“It has been a very buoyant season, but we now have a fantastic chance of winning the cup,” he said.
“If you look at the league, we are much closer to Man United than we have been for a long time. I would put it down to [former manager] Sam Allardyce and Slaven.
“They have bought very good players. Most of them, not all, have adapted to the culture, the lifestyle, the style, the pace of the Premier League, and that has made a huge difference.
“We could still make the Champions League and I cannot tell you how great that would be.”
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