Dimitri Payet has taken West Ham to the next level, says Dean Ashton
- Credit: PA
Dean Ashton believes playmaker Dimitri Payet will continue to be worth every penny for West Ham.
The midfielder signed a new five-and-a-half year contract worth up to a reported £125,000-per-week, on Thursday as the Hammers moved to ensure the Frenchman will not be lured elsewhere.
Payet has caught the eye after enjoying an excellent first season in English football, impressing since arriving from Marseille last summer for £10.75million.
The 28-year-old was a reported £38m target for an unnamed Chinese club, but he will now be able to focus fully on today's trip to Norwich City after ending speculation that he was looking to cash in on his outstanding start to life in the Barclays Premier League.
Retired striker Ashton, who West Ham paid £7.25m to prise away from Norwich in 2006, has been hugely impressed by Payet's impact and is sure the Hammers have done the right thing in breaking the bank to tie him down on an improved deal.
'We all knew he was a decent player,' said Ashton ahead of today's showdown between two of his former clubs at Carrow Road.
'Anyone who had seen him play for Marseille knew he could play a bit. I don't think anybody expected him to be quite as good as he has been though.
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'He's been absolutely brilliant. He can create, score goals and make something happen out of very little. It is a prized commodity these days to have somebody who can win you a game.
'You want to keep your best players and I didn't think West Ham would sell him.'
Slaven Bilic's sixth-placed side are still in the FA Cup and dreaming of matching their best-ever Premier League showing.
That came in the 1998/99 season under Harry Redknapp when Paolo di Canio and Frank Lampard helped to inspire a fifth-placed finish.
A victory at Carrow Road, if Manchester United suffer a shock defeat in the day's early game at Sunderland, would see the Hammers occupy that position again as their confidence continues to grow ahead of a summer switch to the Olympic Stadium.
Ashton, inset, added: 'All strikers love to play with someone like Payet. He can pick a pass, can slide a ball down the side of defenders, and create chances.
'It can help take players to the next level.
'As a forward you can be more confident about making runs because you know you'll get the ball.
'Is it realistic for West Ham to finish fifth? Well I can't see Man United going on a run and winning all their games so I don't see why not.
'I'm not sure how much staying in the FA Cup will distract them though.
'I'm sure Norwich were praying they went to extra-time against Liverpool in midweek.
'They picked up a few injuries, and I know you wouldn't wish that on anybody, but it made a tough game even tougher.'