It’s nearly three months to the day that Patrice Evra’s contract at Marseille was terminated. The former France international – whose relationship with the notoriously hard-to-please OM support – was unceremoniously discarded at the Stade Vélodrome after kicking out at a fan before OM’s Europa League game against Vitoria Guimaraes.
Having also been hit by a UEFA ban from European competitions until 30 June (he wouldn’t have played anyway had he joined another team) – many wondered what Evra’s next step would be. The self-proclaimed social media king felt he still had something to offer, but as evidenced by some extremely lacklustre displays for Marseille in 2017-18, it was generally assumed that his days in one of the top-5 European leagues were over.
But alas, no. For reasons only David Moyes and the West Ham directorship will know, the former France international rocks up at London’s Olympic Stadium on a short-term deal. Quite what the thinking is behind this move is anyone’s guess.
First, the positives. Evra is still a well-liked individual. particularly in the Premier League, despite the events that transpired in Guimaraes in November. A highly successful stint at Manchester United has ensured that fans in England hold the 36-year-old in high regard. His experience in a difficult and tumultuous league will benefit any dressing room.
Speaking of the dressing room, this is clearly a place where the well-experienced veteran thrives. At Marseille, despite being around for less than a year, he was already catapulted into the vice-captaincy role and the ‘motivator-in-chief’. This, despite another ex-Hammer assuming the actual captaincy – Dimitri Payet.
With West Ham hovering just above the relegation zone (3 points at the time of writing), and with only 6 league wins all season – Moyes may feel they need all the experience they can get.
But at what cost? The Hammers already have two left-backs in Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku, the latter currently serving a 6-match ban for a spitting offence in the FA Cup. They are also out of both the Carabao Cup & FA Cup, giving them a total of just 12 more games to play until May.
What’s more is that the former Juventus man is also well past his best. Emphasis on the ‘well’. The player English fans saw in 2014 was already in a period of a slow decline. Four years later, that process has accelerated.
What precipitated his Marseille exit had been unrelenting public criticism at his displays. They weren’t just lacklustre, but bordering on the abysmal. This – coupled with the defender’s viral ‘I Love Monday’s’ skits following the weekend games had enraged the OM support.
An unedifying example of this was Marseille’s 1-3 defeat to Rennes – currently the latest time that they’ve lost at home. Evra was ridiculed by the fans & media alike for a disasatrous performance – being personally responsible for two goals. He was an invisible presence at LB, drifting towards the middle of the park, thereby forcing the less mobile centre-back to cover for him on the left. For that game, he was given a score of 2 in L’Équipe, a 1 in La Provence, and a 0.5 on Le Phoceen.
His next (and last) performance in Ligue 1 for OM was of a similar level. Though OM won fortuitously away to Marcelo Bielsa’s Lille – the former United man was booked early on and was teetering on the brink of a red card throughout the fixture whilst being given the run-around.
In the ensuing three months, Evra has been locked away in Dubai well away from competitive action. With the European season almost beginning to reach its peak – where form today begins to dictate trophies, honours, promotions and relegations – it is surprising that West Ham have banked on a player, with all his flaws, has not played professionally since late October in a time of great importance for their club.
Our message to West Ham fans. Don’t expect a lot. But who knows? Maybe Messrs Moyes, Sullivan and Gold know something we don’t.