Memphis Depay was once regarded as one of the most promising young players emerging in European football, but the Dutchman has experienced a tumultuous chapter in his career since leaving PSV Eindhoven for Premier League titans Manchester United in May 2015.
Journalists in Holland cited comparisons with Portuguese virtuoso Cristiano Ronaldo and Dutch legend Arjen Robben during his primitive years at PSV Eindhoven. He was a mouth watering prospect in Eindhoven and he was already amplifying his growing reputation at just 17 years of age in the Dutch Eredivisie.
Depay was being hunted by the three biggest clubs in the Netherlands, but his grandfather, despite being an ardent Ajax supporter, recommended that he joined PSV Eindhoven.
He instantaneously made an impression in their youth ranks and was given his debut at just 17 years and seven months old in an 8-0 win over VVSB in the KNVB 2nd Round in September 2011.
Embarking on Stardom in European Football
He quickly cemented his place in the first team during the following season, after impressing during his debut season with a record of four goals in 11 appearances in the 2011/12 season. His more inclusive role allowed him to express himself more freely and his dribbling capabilities combined with his blistering pace, impressive ball control and his exceptional link-up play created uncontrollable excitement amongst supporters.
The astronomical rise of Memphis Depay originally looked unstoppable and his performances were simply breath-taking in his spell at PSV. It came as no surprise when he received his first international call-up to the Netherlands National Team by Louis Van Gaal, who would later manage him at Manchester United. The Moordrecht-born forward managed to help his national team to an impressive third-place finish at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, scoring twice and making an assist in the process.
After establishing himself at the 2014 World Cup with Holland, Depay began to improve significantly in the Dutch Eredivisie. He’d marked his penultimate season at PSV with 14 goals in 43 appearances, but his final season exceeded the wildest of expectations, although it meant that they would find it extremely difficult to retain the services of their most prized possession.
The then 20-year-old had the ability to unlock any defence with his incredible pace, footballing intelligence and unbelievable dribbling ability. He finished the season as the Eredivisie Top Goal Scorer with 22 goals and helped them to their first Eredivisie title in seven years.
Depay subsequently gave into his temptations of searching for a challenge outside of his native Holland and was reunited with his former Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal, ignoring interest from Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Arsenal.
The Downfall of Memphis Depay
The Guardian published an article just November of last year regarding Memphis Depay and his substandard mentality with Bruno Genesio (Olympique Lyon’s head coach) even stating that the Dutch international will remain in the depths of mediocrity if he chooses not to change for the better despite his current high-level ability. Apparently, that was always the case since he was young.
Often disciplined by the club for his atrocious behaviour. Coming late and showing lack of effort in training, and sometimes even being involved in bust-ups with his own teammates. Take his fight with former PSV teammate, Joshua Brenet in 2014 for example. The incident was filmed and was as clear as can be as the two talented PSV academy graduates were throwing punches at each other. Depay later confirmed on Twitter that the fight was actually nothing and that he and Brenet are ‘cool’. That was already just a sneak-peek of his bad boy behaviour and Manchester United seemed to not even flinch after that incident, still insisting to sign the starlet in the summer of 2015 – and they finally did. The club with rich history and a seemingly endless pit of money, signed Memphis Depay in June 2015 for a fee of around 34 million Euros – perhaps relieving PSV Eindhoven of their having to deal with his antics.
The same kind of incident happened again in October 2015. This time Depay clashed with former Manchester United, Arsenal, and Feyenoord striker, Robin van Persie. The incident is said to be only because the two were merely fighting over the ball in the training session.
Despite his ridiculous behaviour, Depay wasted no time making a good impression of himself and showing the public what he can do in Manchester with his flashy skills and grand performances early in his stint at United. Sadly – but not surprisingly – he never really lived up to his price tag and potential. The Netherlands international with Ghanaian blood blamed the high-level, high-intensity English football, saying that the schedules were too tight and that there was little time to rest between matches and training sessions. The statement was then shrugged off by assistant manager Ryan Giggs, who stated that it was Depay’s poor time management and flashy lifestyle that resulted in his terrible form at United.
Despite getting back on his feet after suffering a setback and being dropped to the reserves team, Depay was still deemed not up to the standard at Manchester United and saw himself sold to Ligue 1 title challengers Olympique Lyon in January 2017 for just around 16 million Euros plus add-ons which could see the transfer fee rise up to 25 million Euros.
The Initial Revival
The Dutch forward instantly established himself in the first-team squad after several promising performances, partnering (and competing) with one of the most prolific attacks in France consisting of the likes of Mathieu Valbuena, Rachid Ghezzal, Maxwel Cornet, Alexandre Lacazette, Nabil Fekir, and Houssem Aouar. But Depay has been eager to prove everyone at United – and basically everybody who has ever doubted him – emphatically wrong. Finally, he has his spirit, passion, and competitiveness back after several years adversity.
Helped with his versatility and attacking prowess, Depay was able to play in various positions upfront – either as an attacking midfielder or a second striker, a winger who’s able to play on both sides, or even as a centre-forward. Memphis Depay was able to finish the 2016/17 season with Lyon with 18 games to his name, scoring 5 goals and providing 8 assists.
The 2017/18 season became what could actually be said as the career-reviving season for the 24-year-old attacker as he became an indispensable part of the team and was ever-present throughout the season. The name ‘Depay’ is not always synonymous with the term consistency, but that season, he literally defied the odds. Appearing in 51 games, managing to get his name on the scoresheet 22 times and recording 17 assists, Depay effectively became the most prolific and the most dangerous player in his team as he ended the season as the club top scorer and top assist provider.
Old Habits Die Hard