It’s nearly here! The Africa Cup of Nations 2017 kicks off this weekend and it’s a tournament we love and have covered in detail in the past on Just Football. Ahead of this year’s edition in Gabon here are a selection of promising young African talents that have risen to prominence and could play an essential […]
As he geared up for a free kick that turned out to be his twentieth league goal of the season, the Philips Stadion filled with expectation. The score was already 1-0 in the game against sc Heerenveen and a win would help secure PSV their first Eredivisie league title in seven years. Moments later, the stadium exploded as Memphis did what Eindhoven has grown to expect from him.
In a season that some critics in the Netherlands have somehow deemed so-so, Memphis Depay has racked up 21 Eredivisie goals and counting, and has been decisive in many moments. A testament to both his potential and ability, no-one seems to doubt that Memphis can become the first world class player from the Netherlands since Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie made their breakthroughs.
At 21, Memphis has coped with the disappointment of being overlooked for a first team place by Dick Advocaat, has dealt with the euphoria of being a World Cup performer and has proven himself to be one of the standout performers in his home league. He’s won over some of the biggest clubs given the reported interest, with rumours linking him to Manchester United, Liverpool and PSG – and it seems Memphis can pick his next destination just by pointing at a place on a map. “He has the qualities to go a step higher,” his manager Phillip Cocu recently admitted.
But how valid is it to label a 21-year-old who has only played in the Eredivisie the next best thing in world football? Here are five reasons why Memphis Depay is ready for the step up:
1) His physique is as good as they come
No weak stuff when bench-pressing with Memphis. Depay looks like a bodybuilder-turned-footballer but it’s very much the reverse, the youngster bulking up as he fills out his young frame.
When taking on players he has the speed and power, but also the agility to shrug off even the strongest opponents. It would take some defender to keep Memphis quiet. Apart from that, he defies comparisons with Robben not only by being a completely different player, but by his injury record, which has been close to spotless: the winger has only missed six league matches through injury in the last two seasons.
2) His technique is up there with the best
Despite his physique, Memphis’ technique has never suffered. Modelling his game on that of Cristiano Ronaldo (although Patrick Kluivert was his first and foremost idol) he knows that taking care of himself is what counts, both in terms of physique and technical strengths.
Over the last season, Depay has put dribbles and runs together that seemed almost impossible to stop. He has met people bigger and stronger than him, but has never been bullied out of games, often too quick and too crafty to be pushed out of games.
His excellent control on the ball has served him well; whereas others need distance to get their dribbling skills into full gear, Memphis Depay has been able to show his qualities both with space and without. He’s been compared with Cristiano Ronaldo quite often, and the Portuguese star is a known example for the Moordrecht-born youngster, and while the Madeira wonderkid was probably a bigger talent at Memphis’ current age, the Dutch attacker is not far off.
His close control makes him quite unpredictable near the box and he has a right foot that a lot of players would kill for, pure dynamite. This season, he has racked up six goals from direct free-kicks, something no player in Europe’s big five leagues is able to say. If you give Memphis time to aim, he will fire, and with great success.
3) 20+ league goals is just the beginning
Twenty-one goals. And some games to go. Depay likes scoring goals and is quite good at it too. But he’s not been as consistent as some top talents have been at his age.
Still, 21 goals. Imagine him improving on that. While the Eredivisie is a goal-happy competition, it is not a given that a player scores bucket-loads. If Depay can learn to grow in terms of consistency and produce a moment of magic every game or so, there’s a good chance he will get even more goals than he already scored this season.
4) His eagerness to improve
Memphis Depay is the talk of the town, and could well have been last year had he not extended his contract at PSV. At that point, after an impressive World Cup in which he was shortlisted by FIFA for Best Young Player, playing an extra full year in Eindhoven was his priority, and it’s safe to say it didn’t make him a lesser player.
Depay is not looking to cash in at the earliest opportunity, but rather to build a career as one of the best footballers of his generation. Development before cash has been his motto and so far it has served him well. The youngster is looking for a move, but only if he believes it will improve his game. He has the confidence to believe he can reach the highest levels in football, but is well aware that being careful with career decisions is an important aspect of that.
Tottenham Hotspur and FC Bayern reportedly showed interest last summer, with PSG adding to that last winter, but the former Sparta Rotterdam youth player wasn’t fazed by any of the interest, sticking to his guns and remaining at PSV. Depay sees his own development as the main focus of his next destination. Money doesn’t play a part. A brave and wise stance for a player that could probably have been earning double what he is now already.
5) He’s Memphis
Have you ever heard of a football player called Memphis? We haven’t. There is probably a reason for that. It could be the name, as we would love to know why one is called Memphis. Regardless, the name Memphis Depay has been a huge talent in Dutch football for years and years. And how he’s handled the attention has been mightily impressive.
He has rebuked interest from abroad, created his own path, including a highly unusual fashion style, and has had the confidence and talent to get where he currently is. The 21-year-old doesn’t seem to doubt his ability or worth, and why should he?
So far, the Dutch international has lived up to everything that has been written about him. If there comes a point in time when critics doubt him, his self-belief is likely to save him. That, together with his eagerness to improve, might turn Memphis Depay into the ultimate project for any talented manager out there.
(photo credit: TxsDesign via Flickr)