For those who have been watching football since the later part of the last decade, the mention of Memphis Depay brings out a flurry of memories, consisting of ups and downs. He was touted as a future superstar after his breakthrough into PSV Eindhoven’s first team before having a rather miserable stint at Old Trafford. But what is most interesting is his ability to remain in the limelight. The best possible example to explain this : Memphis is only a few goals away from become the all time top scorer for the Netherlands National Team. He’ll pass some legendary figures like Johan Cruyff, Marco Van Basten and Arjen Robben. But now, he finds himself to be part of a conundrum at Barcelona.
Earning a move to Barcelona:
After a disappointing spell at Manchester United, Memphis Depay decided to move to OL in Ligue 1. Back then, most football fans already wrote him off. They considered the French League to be a quick way to earn a steady paycheck, due to the lack of quality beyond PSG. However, as Memphis later revealed, the player and his evaluated multiple factors before making the move. Memphis was ready to relaunch his career and he did just that. Not only did he form a formidable duo with Nabil Fekir. He also helped a declining Lyon side become competitive again. Moreover, he led them to a surprise Champions League Semi Final run in 2020 where he was amongst the key players for his side.
In his last season for OL, which was the 20/21 campaign, he racked up a shocking 32 G/A in 37 League games. This was the second highest goal tally in the league. Only Kylian Mbappe scored more than him. It’s safe to say Memphis will look back at his time in Lyon fondly.
Arrival to Barcelona and a Rollercoaster First Season:
The arrival of Ronald Koeman undoubtedly opened the doors for Memphis’ arrival to Barca. Having worked with him in the National Team, Koeman spoke wonders about him and his league performances spoke for themselves. Hence, Depay was targeted by the Catalan club for a large chunk of the 2020 summer window but the financial situation of the club made it near impossible for an agreement to be reached between OL and Barcelona.
It was reported by the media that Koeman was even ready to let Dembele leave the club in order to facilitate his arrival but the club decided against it. With his contract running out in the summer of 2021, it was no secret that the club would revisit this topic again next year. Eventually, a deal was completed and Memphis Depay finally arrived. I think its impressive how the Dutchman turned down better financial offers from PSG and Juventus in order to facilitate his move to his “Dream Club.”
Either way, Memphis Depay hit the ground running with decent performances in preseason, and he was already turning into a fan favourite. However, no one expected what happened next. With the shock departure of Lionel Messi and later Antoine Griezmann, the Oranje star found himself becoming the focal point in attack for the team. To be the main man of Barcelona’s attack is not an easy responsibility to live up to. Whilst many players would shy away from this responsibility, Memphis was ready to take on this opportunity head on. And he did a good job of it. For a while atleast.
Things should have been different
I genuinely believe Memphis is unlucky. He was forced to play a role he was not fully comfortable with, through the middle, because of the unavailability of Sergio Aguero. The team was also missing Dembele and Pedri, whilst De Jong was going through a rough patch. Adding that to the evident decline in performances of the team under Ronald Koeman, Memphis started to burn out. The responsibility just seemed too much to handle for any player who’s name was not Lionel Messi. The dutchman seemed to be losing his flair and the departure of his biggest supporter at the club in Ronald Koeman only set him back further.
Xavi was clear that he wanted his team to play with two proper wingers and a pure number 9. Memphis Depay was not either. As a result, this union seemed destined to fail. Memphis was still the team’s primary goal scorer and hence Xavi was forced play him but before he could make a huge impact, Memphis was injured during the second week of December and the trajectory of his Blaugrana career seemed to change for the worse. The start of the January transfer window brought Xavi reinforcements in the form of Ferran Torres as well as Aubameyang. Whilst Depay was recovering from being injured for over a month, the new arrivals started to steal the show and Depay was no longer untouchable for Xavi.
Unable to find his place
And just as he seemed to be regaining his rhythm, injury struck again. This time to his Achilles Tendon which left him on the sidelines for almost 40 days. Furthermore, Dembele also returned to fitness and put in his best run of performances at the club since arriving. Depay never seemed to gain form again and struggled to recover from his injury problems, even near the end of the season. According to Transfermarkt, Injuries made Depay miss almost 15 club games after 9th December till the end of the season. Memphis ended the season as the top scorer in the league for Barca succeeding Lionel Messi to this mantle.
How he Fits into Xavi’s Plans This Season:
Xavi told Memphis that he was not part of their plans. Therefore, he tried for a move away last summer. With the renewal of Dembele and arrivals of Lewandowksi and Raphinha, it was made clear that he would no longer be able to get regular game time. However, after his move to Juventus broke down, Memphis decided to take on this challenge and stay.
Being a mentality monster, Depay decided to keep his head down and work to get minutes. He offers Xavi with a unique option on the left wing because he can cut inside very well and is decent at linking up play. His attitude was rewarded with a start against Elche in the last game before this international break and he definitely did not disappoint, scoring a goal and he was also vital in two of the other goals we scored. He also linked very well with Lewandowski. Hence, Cules headed into this international break feeling optimistic about his situation yet again.
However, he has faced an injury in his thigh that threatens to keep him out for a few weeks. Only Memphis can decide if this injury disrupts his form yet again. Will he be able to come back better and reverse his situation at Barcelona? His contract running out in the summer, so time is running out.