Depay looked lost at United but could he cheer up Messi at Barcelona?

Manchester United signed Memphis Depay at the wrong time… he looked out of his depth at Old Trafford but has reinvented himself as Lyon’s talisman. Now he is being lined up by Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, can he help put a smile on Lionel Messi’s face?

  • Memphis Depay suffered a nightmare two-year spell at Manchester United   
  • The Dutch winger arrived for £25m but lost his confidence and was sold to Lyon 
  • Depay was ‘confused’ by Louis van Gaal’s tactics and couldn’t play at his best 
  • Now he is Lyon’s talisman and captain and his talent is delivering an end product
  • It’s no surprise fellow Dutchman Ronald Koeman put him top of list at Barcelona
  • He could be the answer to get Barca ticking again and appease Lionel Messi 

Manchester United scouts are graded by the success or failures of their recommendations.

Those who helped persuade the club to sign a 21-year-old Dutch winger from PSV in 2015 didn’t look too clever when Memphis Depay was sold 18 months later at a £10million loss after a largely unhappy time at Old Trafford.

But they will surely want a re-assessment of their talent spotting now that Depay is in his prime at 26 having helped Lyon reach the Champions League semi-final – defeating Juventus and Manchester City – and now coveted by Barcelona as the player who can bring the best out of Lionel Messi.

Memphis Depay was lost at Manchester United and struggled to live up to his huge potential 

The winger is now in his prime with Lyon as their captain and is a top target for Barcelona 

He has been earmarked as the player who can help settle Lionel Messi after his bid for an exit 

It’s a major transformation for those who witnessed Depay on his first pre-season tour of America, a young kid who looked out of depth having arrived from PSV Eindhoven, and compensated by putting on a rather haughty demeanour for show.

It was a sign of things to come. Depay started only 16 Premier League games in a season-and-a-half at United under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, scoring just twice.

Whatever problems needed to be solved at that awkward period in United’s history, and there were many, Depay wasn’t the answer despite being handed the legendary No7 shirt.

Depay wasn’t the answer to United’s many problems when he joined Old Trafford in 2015 

The rigid team patterns employed by both his managers didn ‘t help the Dutch international to express his attacking instincts out wide or down the middle.

Not that Depay helped himself. Team-mate Wayne Rooney later revealed the youngster was once ordered to play for the reserves after making a mistake against Stoke, and turned up in a Rolls Royce, wearing a leather jacket and cowboy hat.

On the pitch, Depay lost confidence, dribbled into cul-de-sacs instead of using his trickery, and lacking a goal threat, just seven in 53 appearances for United overall.

He blamed Van Gaal, saying: ‘I got confused. I had to follow the tactical orders of Van Gaal, otherwise I would certainly lose my spot in the team. Van Gaal doesn’t like players who don’t follow up on his comments.

He admitted being ‘confused’ tactically but also displayed a poor attitude during his two years

‘Meanwhile I knew I couldn’t get the best out of my play this way: staying on the left side of the field, running back and forth.’

Even so, things didn’t improve after Van Gaal was sacked having won The FA Cup in 2016. Mourinho didn’t fancy the young and raw Depay either, at least not ahead of Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhiitaryan or even Rooney as a wide player.

In the January 2017, Depay was sold to Lyon for a bargain £15million. Mourinho praised his character – ‘if somebody thinks he is not a great professional they are completely wrong’ – and certainly the ‘real’ Depay has emerged in the last three years as he reached his mid-twenties.

Depay is a different player at Lyon, finally delivering with 57 goals in 132 since signing in 2017 

57 goals in 132 games for his French club, 11 in the Champions League, is the surest sign of Depay’s talent now delivering end product.

With his former Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman now installed at the Nou Camp, it is no surprise the 26-year-old is now top of Barcelona’s shopping list.

He still ticks the boxes of those who are suspicious of today’s generation of footballer – he has 10 million instagram followers and has already published an autobiography – but he is also backing it up on the pitch.

It’s no surprise Barcelona manager wants to be reunited with the Holland star at the Nou Camp

It’s clear United signed Depay at the wrong time as he continues to show off his influence  

He scored five goals in five Champions League group games at the start of last season before suffering a cruciate injury. He showed character to recover from that and have an impact at the end of the Champions League campaign. ‘I am the captain and important to the team,’ he said, embracing the responsibility.

He started this new season with a hat-trick against Dijon. The next stop is likely to be Barcelona for a £22million fee.

It appears Manchester United’s scouts did get the right player, but at the wrong time.

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