FourFourTwo's Jonathan Fadugba profiles Memphis Depay, the Dutch wing sensation causing a stir in Brazil and attracting interest from English clubs...
The 60-second story
He calls himself the dream chaser. He straddles the line between confident and cocky. He has a single-minded, burning ambition to make it to the top. And, with two goals and an assist to swing two games around in his country’s favour at this, his first World Cup, he’s emerged as one of the tournament’s most exciting youngsters so far.
Memphis Depay is growing into a significant weapon in Louis van Gaal’s fresh Oranje, an impact substitute whose pace, energy and trickery is winning him growing acclaim. His goal against Australia in a 3-2 win made Depay the youngest ever Dutch goalscorer in the history of the World Cup, surpassing the previous record set by Boudewijn Zenden at France 1998. The 20-year-old followed that up with another strike in a 2-0 win against Chile, his second international goal in a career that’s only just getting started.
As such, Depay looks like he has the ability to become a mainstay of this Dutch side for years to come. Inevitably, big clubs are now paying PSV’s wing sensation attention, and a post-tournament move to join Van Gaal at Manchester United is just one of many rumours.
Why you need to know him
Memphis Depay’s story is interesting, if not uncommon - that of the troubled child blessed with extraordinary talent. He had a testing childhood, as the son of a Ghanaian father and Dutch mother who separated when he was four years old. Any child who has lived through a parental break-up will know only too well the deep emotional pain it can cause, any study will speak of the damaging psychological consequences it can have. Depay is one of many who experienced this, and the effects clearly had an impact on his development that endures to this day: in 2012 he dropped Depay from the back of his shirt, reasoning that Depay is his father’s name and that he has no contact with him. Memphis is the name he wears now.
- Name: Memphis Depay
- Age: 20
- Date of Birth: 13/2/1994
- Position: Winger
- Height: 5ft 9in
- Clubs: PSV Eindhoven (84 appearances, 22 goals)
- International record: Netherlands (8 caps, 2 goals)
Depay was born in the southern Dutch town of Moordrecht, “a small village where there’s not much to do,” according to one of his closest childhood friends Gigi. But emptiness ends when there's a football at your feet, and Depay and his friends spent almost all their time playing. He joined the local team VV Moordrecht and his desire to succeed as a professional saw him leave his hometown to join PSV Eindhoven when he was 12.
Though a naturally gifted footballer, he had problems adhering to the way of life at PSV and struggled with authority, leading to the perception this was a moody, complicated kid. PSV gave him a life coach, who described him as “very angry” at their first meeting.
This wasn’t helped when, the day after Depay’s 15th birthday, his grandfather died. Hugely influenced by him, Depay has words dedicated to his grandfather tattooed down the left arm of his heavily-inked 5ft 9in frame. “That man gave me a lot of strength and took great care of me,” says Depay. “At that moment I thought to myself I’ve got to go for it. I know where I want to go, and that is the top.”
Using pain as motivation, Depay focused on his football. At 16 he was called up to represent his country at Under-17 level, and was part of Holland’s 2011 European U17 Championship winning squad, scoring in the final as Holland beat Germany 5-2. He scored within 20 minutes of his PSV debut in 2011, the opening goal of an 8-0 destruction of VVSB Noordwijkerhout in the Dutch Cup, which PSV would go on to win that year. Then he scored again, two goals in his first taste of professional football, still only 17.
His Eredivisie debut came at 18 in the last minute of a 3-2 win against Feyenoord in 2012. PSV boss Phillip Cocu then gave him slightly more time, 11 minutes of a 5-1 win over Heerenveen. Depay scored within six minutes of coming on.
A pacy, skilful and direct winger, Depay has scored 22 goals in 84 appearances at PSV, and now has two goals in eight appearances for Holland. Much like the colour of the shirt he wears, the future looks bright.
As he showed with his goal against Australia, Depay is a fearsome striker of the ball with a powerful right foot. If you give him space to turn and shoot from distance he’s likely to punish you, as exceptional hits against Zulte-Waregem and Chernomorets Odessa in European action for PSV will tell you.
An able runner with the ball – nobody completed more successful dribbles per game in the Eredivise last season - he can play on either wing but is usually used as an inverted left winger cutting onto his right foot. His skill set could perhaps lead to a future as an attacking midfielder.
Depay’s physical power, speed, skill and direct running will all undoubtedly have influenced Van Gaal’s decision to take him to Brazil ahead of players like Quincy Promes and Jean-Paul Boetius, who were also options down the flanks. In a pre-tournament friendly against France Depay came off the bench and was electric, embarrassing Mathieu Debuchy at times down the left-hand channel with his silky skill and speed. He registered 12 goals and 7 assists in the Eredivisie last season, his maiden campaign as a first-team player, and was the league’s joint second best player for key passes per game (2.7).
Mentally Depay also appears very strong, a committed young man driven to reach the top. “I want to win every time,” he says. “If I lose, my day is ruined.” He has the words ‘dream chaser’ tattooed on his chest, an outlook that’s become like a personal mantra. “When I look in the mirror I get motivated because I know I’m not yet where I want to be.”
At 20 there are inevitable flaws in his game. Decision-making – knowing when to shoot, when to take a man on and when to pass – is an area Depay can improve upon, and his shooting can be wayward at times. Improved consistency and efficiency would see him become of the top young players in Europe, if he isn’t already.
"Memphis is one of the greatest talents of the Netherlands, a very passionate and ambitious guy too. If he continues his development in this way, the club is going to have a lot of fun with him around,” said PSV technical manager Marcel Brands in 2012.
“He’s doing everything to reach the top,” PSV team-mate Stijn Schaars told Helden Online. “He has a body of a true athlete, power and flair. I’m not afraid of him losing his head. His drive is huge. I like him a lot.”
Did you know
If a transfer battle ever breaks out between Real Madrid and Barcelona for Depay’s services, we suspect he may favour the white shirts of Madrid. After their Copa del Rey clasico semi-final win over rivals Barca in 2013 Depay joyously tweeted “Hala Madrid!”
- Shooting 7
- Heading 5
- Passing 6
- Tackling 5
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 8
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 8
What happens next
You know the drill, here comes the rumour mill. Manchester United have been linked, a plausible enough A-to-B given Van Gaal’s imminent arrival at Old Trafford. Tottenham, Besiktas and others are also reportedly keen. But it won’t be easy. The price tag is growing with every game-changing performance, while PSV supporters are so keen for the 20-year-old to remain in Eindhoven that a banner was erected at the training ground ahead of Holland’s second round match against Mexico with the words “Memphis not for sale”.
"Memphis should just concentrate on the World Cup and go there to show what progress he has made,” Depay’s agent Kees Ploegsma jr commented before the tournament. “Then we’ll see.” Depay has certainly shown his progress. Now for the bidding war.