Memphis Depay was traveling with the Olympique Lyon Foundation last January, for some benefit dinner for the homeless… They drove past a Roma camp outside of Lyon, a desolate little community of old caravans and rotting huts. Memphis asked the driver to stop. He’d seen this before and was intrigued. This time, he decided to step out of the car and check it out. The Lyon forward started talking to some kids in the camp and asked about their plight. A couple of days later, Depay revisited the camp with several of his friends and went to deliver a huge trailer with clothes and food.
“The Bible says: love thy neighbour like you love thyself,” Memphis says now, a few months later.
This interview wasn’t about the visit to the Roma camp. This interview was about his return to form at Lyon. “I love myself, a lot. So I can love others a lot too. You too, everyone. God created us all.”
When Memphis talks about his faith, he is open and genuine. Spontaneous even. And this takes some time to process, as the street player from Moordrecht is usually stern, unapproachable and aloof. he does mention his faith, on his insta account for instance, but every time a reporter talks to Memphis, it’s a short talk and it hardly ever is about the Bible or loving thy neighbour….
It’s always about his football, his image and his ambition. And in those talks, he’s headstrong, unfathomable and sometimes downright annoying. “God was there for me, always, but I wasn’t always there to recieve. But it has changed. I haven’t changed so much, my personality is the same, but things are added to me, I learned things. I developed. I think I changed for the better.”
And, maybe a coincidence, Memphis is better on the pitch than ever. For months already. The player who seemed to play with a straightjacket on at Man United and in his first months in Lyon, looks like a player liberated. And it shows in his stats: 16 goals, 12 assist. But the metamorphosis is best observed by watching him play 90 minutes. He plays in a free striker’s role, and he plays wonderful and full of confidence. The Dutchman is involved in every goal threatening situation by Lyon and might well be solely responsible for delivering CL football to Lyon.
“I’m playing my best football, ever? I appreciate it. I do think I’m going alright, I’m on the right path, but I don’t know where my ceiling is. No one knows, really. Only God. But I don’t play with fear, with uncertainty. I play without the brakes on and I will get to a new level at some stage. That, I am sure of.”
His tone of voice is completely different compared to our last conversation, at the end of 2015. Memphis was just at Man United for 5 months. He was fired up, he was eager to show his skills and he had a lot of anxiety, impatience and swagger.
Back then, he said: “I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t want to be average. Mainstream is not my thing. You get hit by a car, on the middle of the road, hahaha. And you, my dream was never to become a football. My dream was, to become the best footballer. That is my goal. And I can manage that, the pressure will never squash me.”
But the former Sparta talent did struggle, in the years after. With himself. With the plethoria of tasks he got from coach Van Gaal, playing from the left. If Memphis even played. Under Van Gaal and later under Mourinho, Memphis drifted out of the picture more and more. The confident top talent became a doubter, and this was visible at Oranje as well. He was unreachable, or he was vulnerable, or he was not interested… When he moved to Lyon in January 2017, he made his debut vs Lille with a crucial mistake. Sport paper L’Equipe was devastating in their opinions about him.
Memphis was struggling and his circle started to get concerned. He might have the image of a rapper with a lot of tattoos and gold and a guy with a difficult personality, but the forward is also hyper ambitious and very serious about his game and working extremely hard to reach his goals.
Memphis is working with a small circle of advisers, for years already, such as his manager Kees Ploegsma jr (son of the famous PSV technical director of the 1970s and 1980s) and sport psychologist Joost Leenders. They know his specific character, and his complex background. They looked for different ways to reach Memphis, but nothing seemed to work.
Memphis now: “The people who love me and care for me tell me things that are meant well. I am always polite to people who mean well, but the last years, I have closed myself of a bit. I needed to fully focus on football.”
His current way of celebrating, two fingers in his ears, is the symbol of that. It doesn’t mean he’s deaf for criticism, as some think. He usually does his fingers thing, and then drops to his knees and points to the sky, in thanks. “I only listen to God” is what he seems to say.
“I’m not religious in a way that I go to church or make Catholic crosses. I am fine with others doing what they do. For me, God is everywhere. I have a direct relationship with God, not via a church. God is everywhere.”
His faith helps him. Helps him find a way through the complex jungle that is top football. His fiancee Lori Harvey is the daughter of American tv star and comedian Steve Harvey. The Harveys are a devout Christian family. And Memphis mum was very religious as well. As a teenager, Memphis wasn’t.
“I met someone who showed me the way. I am super happy with this and highly appreciative. Not everyone has that peace, and neither did I when I was younger. I see players go onto the pitch in fear, with fear of making mistakes. Not that I had fear, so much. But whenever I played one or two passes wrong, it would get in my head. And I would think, ok next time, I need to play without risk… I don’t have this now, my head is free.”
The ones close to him saw this changes earlier when he dropped to the bench at Lyon. Usually, he’d drown in his own frustrations, like at Man United, but now, as a sub, he had massive value.
“Against Nantes last week, I missed a sitter. And when you start analysing this, your game will be affected by it. Now I think, ok. I missed. There is heaps of time left for me to set that right. And I was able to. I want to entertain the fans, I want to enjoy myself as well. And it’s not just goals. It’s also assists or dummy runs. That does give me something extra.”
Memphis is in a good space. And it shows. Last, when Oranje came together with Ronald Koeman as coach, Memphis was a happy-go-lucky fella. He was joking around with a reporter, was smiling for his interviews. And debutant Guus Til (AZ) said after the practice session that Memphis had come up to him directly, to bid him welcome at Oranje.
And now, at Lyon, he’s no longer the stern and stoic player we know from the past, eyes down and mumbling responses. He is now calm and positive. “It’s not in my football that I made changes. It’s also outside of the game. I can tell I’m changing. As a human being, I grew just by relying on my faith.”
We will have to wait and see in what way Oranje will benefit from his current form. But for Koeman, it would be golden, as Oranje can use a new key player with special skills. Against Portugal, the new Memphis was already visible.
And funnily enough, that might have been the game that changed the rest of his season, also at Lyon. His coach Genesio was on the stands in Geneva, at Portugal – Holland. He saw Memphis shine as a false number 9 and the next Lyon game, he gave Memphis a similar role. In this new 4-4-2 system, Depay is making a tremendous impression.
“I love playing freely in space, I need to be able to follow my instincts. Not that I don’t want to defend but playing strictly as a left winger is to limited for me.”
His popularity in France and The Netherlands is huge, particularly with the youth. He’s a sort of king on social media, in street fashion and in football. He was the centre of attention recently in Amsterdam, when Under Armour – his clothing sponsor – opened a new store. “I love it, talking with fans. I will take the time for it, and they tell me everything. It’s special. I do love to be alone but at times I have to give back and connect with the fans. And I do realise I can inspire people. I don’t think I’m that special, apart from football, but I will aim to inspire people if they need me to.”
Our front is quite good form this season but small league, Dost, Memphis, Promes, Kluivert, de Jong, Beek, de Ligt, Berwinj
Just someone dominate at big club but almost middle & backline Van Dijk, Strootman, de Vrij, Winajdum
Memphis is a good example for the younger players how to recover from the terrible set back and humiliation. I hope Vins Janssen will be another example. I also hope, Memphis will stop doing that amazingly irritating gesture with his fingers plugging his ears. It is not original, somebody has already done that. If he stops doing that he will look even more mature…
Depay and mature can’t be on same sentence. He is so exaggerated in everything from tattoos, goal celebrations, dressing etc. He reminds me of a few NBA players who all refer to God whenever they get a chance. In reality the highlights are about their cars and extravagant lifestyles. Somebody so much in love with himself can’t go too far. A lot of potential that I don’t think he will ever fulfill, just a flash here and there.
Stop writing good pieces about Memphis every time you do he starts going into really bad form
I think one season of CL football will sum his credibility up. he will be up against some top defenders should Lyon finish second and qualify directly for CL. this is really where you wanna judge him and see whether he has really gotten his mojo back or simply Ligue 1 is amateur league by his standards.
Joris Van Overeem has verbally agreed to switch to Utrecht from AZ. AZ forever any comments here.
Troupee goes to as as well. Good switch for him he has lots of potential and for some reason he wasn’t getting any playing time there
Jonas Svensson has been a regular for AZ and even Van Rhijn who will go back to his parent club brugge couldn’t shrug off competition from him. I like this guy(Troupee) and indeed has a lot of potential but if Jonas Svensson stays, he will have to play second fiddle to him again.
AZ brought in troupee because they are fully expecting Svensson to leave this summer
To my best knowledge Jonas stays in AZ for next season.
He is going to be part of the bargain between Utrecht and AZ as the latter want to purchase a player from Utrecht and to decrease the price AZ offered Joris. I feel that it is going to be a good move for him as he is no longer in VdB plans. I can not blame the coach as AZ has better players for all positions that Joris can play at. VdB gave him chances several times but he did not live up to expectations. His best season was 2015-2016. After that he has underperformed.
I watched the El clasico and I was thinking about how Depay would fit either at Barcelona or Real Madrid as mentioned in the previous blog. For starters the first preference always goes to Messi and Ronaldo respectively and the rest just have to fit in to the team. Coutinho is so lethal when he is playing on that left side and that was a big feature of him at Liverpool. He was deployed as right attacking mid in 4-4-2 in this game and was the first one to be subbed off. Jus couldnt find the rythm and was lost.same goes for Real, jus because of Ronaldo, Bale has to switch to the right which is not is strongest hold either but jus because he is lefty operating from the right he manages to fit in well on either side. Coming back to Depay, neither he will get preference on the left wing or as striker with likes of messi and suarez around.even dembele has found it going tough at Barce. His stronghold again is on that left side and depending on which formation they play the preference always goes to messi and suarez. Depay will also find himself in the same boat if he ends up at either clubs.if you wanna thrive at real or Barcelona you have be comptent in all aspects and not just one.
I think Depay will be in his absolute prime around 28-29 jus like sneijder when he was at Inter.being said this he should stay at Lyon for another season, play CL footy and gradually moving to big club before thinking about real or barcelona.
Man city are now front runners now to sign De Ligt.
as expected Redan could be on his way to vitesse next season.
NT 1-0 spain. Redan scores again .
FT NT 2-0 spain.
He’s is our best prospect for front-side
as I always say it all about good transition and if this doesnt happen, this is where you expect them to go stray. Sam Lammers is a perfect example. you jus dont wanna be in his shoes right now. he was suppose to be at the centre of the stage at both PSV and also at NT U21s by now,but this has failed to eventuate at both levels.in contrast you look at Dylan Vente who is jus 18 compared to Lammers 20 and how his transition has come about at Feyenoord. ,clearly Ventes stakes has become higher to that that of lammers now and his future looks more brighter then to that of lammers given how things have unfolded between them. And again I doubt Lammers will get much chances next season especially when they have already signed Maxi Romero . I just dont know why Cocu is dragging with Luuk De Jong.this season has jus gone wasted for Lammers.
Moreover I would like to see Redan and Boadu collide at some stage. Redan might be loaned to vitesse and you would expect Boadu to get more game time next season. I would rate Baodu higher than Redan at this point in time beacuse he has played at a higher level but certainly if both of them play together, it will be powerhouse of a performance.
this is a list of some of the young players in eredivisie and mind you these are not just talents but special talents. lets hope this guys can become some big names in future
extended squad for NT friendly.
Goalkeepers: Sergio Padt (Groningen), Marco Bizot (AZ), Jeroen Zoet (PSV), Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona)
Defenders: Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax), Daley Blind (Manchester United), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Hans Hateboer (Atalanta), Terence Kongolo (Huddersfield), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Daryl Janmaat (Watford), Steven De Vrij (Lazio)
Midfielders: Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Kevin Strootman (Roma), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Davy Propper (Brighton), Guus Til (AZ), Ruud Vormer (Club Brugge)
Attackers: Ryan Babel (Besiktas), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Eljero Elia (Istanbul Basaksehir), Wout Weghorst (AZ), Luuk de Jong (PSV), Steven Bergwijn (PSV), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Justin Kluivert (Ajax), Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord)
Vna Ginkel again is a surprise omission.
Peter Bosz has been linked to OGC Nice after Borussia Dortmund and Lucien Favre reached an agreement to take over from Peter Stoger.
Rick Karsdorp will return to first full team training and also will be eligible for selection for Romas final game of the season vs Sassuolo. Roma take on Juventus this week.
Mino Raiola reminds me an Italian Mafioso who is involved in human trafficking. After J. Kluivert, De Ligt is his next victim…As soon as he became De Ligt’s advisor, miraculously the latter wants to leave Ajax. What a son of a bitch!
Nice deal of Barcelona with F. de Jong. I like this approach.
U17 swept their group; defeated Serbia 2-0.
I thought this was group of death.
The Dutch always perform well in Groups of Death.
I have it from a reliable inside source that our youth is incredibly talented….