Memphis Depay arrived at Barcelona on a free transfer. Great value, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the club.
FC Barcelona experienced the worst transfer window in the club’s recent memory. Yet, much of that came out of necessity. Poor transfer windows and investments in years prior set the club back billions.
Memphis Depay arrives through significant departures
The five-time European champions attempted to lower their wage bill under La Liga’s salary cap structure, president Joan Laporta struggled to sell players.
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi left for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. Despite accepting absurd pay cuts, FC Barcelona could not pay less than 50 percent of his previous salary.
Then, the 2016 French Player of the Year, Antoine Griezmann, returned to Atletico Madrid. However, striker Luuk de Jong signed from Sevilla as a last-minute panic purchase.
With the departure of Messi and Griezmann, Barcelona lost 54% of their goals and 33% of their assists. Moreover, the Copa-del-Rey-winning team lost their two biggest goal threats.
In steps Memphis Depay. The Dutch-international came over from Lyon. There, he led Les Gones last season in both goals (20) and assists (12).
Memphis Depay has no easy task. He must fill a void previously occupied by arguably the greatest player to grace the pitch.
The forward will have a career as decorated as Messi, but he is working to replicate the Argentine’s goal output.
Memphis has 42 goal contributions, 28 goals and 14 assists, in 38 matches during the 2021 calendar year. The only players in front of the forward are Robert Lewandowski, 50, Messi, 47, and Erling Haaland with 45.
Recently, Memphis Depay bagged a hat trick and an assist in a UEFA World Cup Qualifying match. His man-of-the-match performance propelled the Netherlands to a 6-1 victory over Turkey.
The Dutch international tied icons Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra with 33 goals for the Oranje. Currently, Memphis sits at eighth-all-time on Holland’s goal list.
After the match, the 2014-15 Eredivisie top scorer was critical of his performance.
“We were careless, especially me. I lost my first three balls; I am not satisfied with that, and I need to improve,” Memphis Depay said.
“I am happy, especially with the result, but I expect more from myself.”
To elevate to an elite-playmaker level, Depay needs this type of determination.
After all, Depay does not shy away from challenges. This is not his first time at a major European club where the lights shine brighter.
At 21, Memphis joined his former national team manager, Louis van Gaal, at Manchester United. The attacker drew early comparisons to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. Furthermore, Depay wore United’s storied No. 7 shirt.
However, he failed to reach expectations. Under pragmatic coaches like van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, Depay felt like his game was put in shackles.
“I don’t blame the manager. Maybe [Mourinho] doesn’t like my style of play,” Depay told the Sunday Times in 2018.
“I love playing beautiful football, tricks and doing cheeky things. I don’t know if that’s his type of game.”
After signing with Olympique Lyonnais in 2017, Memphis rediscovered freedom. The three Lyon managers Depay worked under employed him typically on the left side. There, Depay cut inside to score with his favored right foot. Also, Memphis Depay appeared as a secondary striker in a front two. Finally, he worked as a lone striker as well as a No. 10 to dictate play.
Prior to his move to France, Depay’s critics believed him to be overly selfish. In Ligue 1, he learned to read the game and trust his teammates. In four seasons for L’OL, Depay registered double-digit assists in three of the four campaigns. The only outlier is the 2016-17 season when the forward joined the club in January.
This summer, Memphis Depay joined the 26-time La Liga champions as a free agent. Manchester City legend Sergio Aguero also joined the club to boost the attack. Unfortunately, health continues to hinder Aguero, who is currently out with a right calf injury.
In three league matches so far, France Football’s 2015 Best Young Player has made his presence known on every occasion. Memphis Depay assisted Gerard Pique’s goal in a 4-2 victory over Real Sociedad. His strike in the 75th minute secured a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao. Depay also scored the game-winning goal in Barcelona’s 2-1 win against Getafe. A Barcelona legend notices the forward’s development and believes he is ready to be the focal point of Barca’s attack.
“Memphis has thrown the team on his back, without Messi, I think he will be the leader,” said Samuel Eto’o on Catalan TV program, Què T’hi Jugues.
At 27, Depay is entering his prime at the right time.
Barcelona needs him to be great to challenge for trophies.
Author: Dan Adu-Gyamfi