Memphis Depay, Lyon, goal celebration, fingers in ears
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Memphis Depay: 5 things on Lyon's Dutch star

Memphis Depay: 5 things on Lyon's Dutch star

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Publish on 04/06 at 14:09 - I. HOLYMAN

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Olympique Lyonnais' Memphis Depay is one of the game's most recognisable characters, and the mega-talented Netherlands international continues to grab the headlines after a rough ride to the top. ligue1.com takes a closer look at a mercurial talent.

1) Bling-ingly brilliant

 

Could he be anything else with a name as cool as Memphis? Depay loves to shine off the pitch: the camouflage car, among others, the outrageous outfits, the tattoos, the jewellery. 

 

But it's not all about him. He bought his mum a Mercedes when he joined Manchester United, and there is thought behind his stunning exploits on the pitch too. None more so than when he scored the goal of the season winner in his maiden campaign in France of 2016-17.

 

WATCH: Memphis Depay nets a jaw-dropper

 

 

 

"I had seen the opposing goalkeeper was off his line in the first half, but I'd not had an opportunity in that area of the pitch," said Depay after beating goalkeeper Alban Lafont from just inside the Toulouse half in a 4-0 Lyon win.

 

"I had kept that in mind and as soon as I got the ball I knew where he was. All I had to do was turn and shoot without thinking. I didn't even seen my shot go in, but I heard the fans go wild."

 

And yet Depay still managed to produce something almost as spectacular that season: the outfit he wore to go to pick up his award at the end-of-season ceremony.

 

2) In the name of the grandfather

 

Depay's maternal grandfather, Kees, was a major influence in channelling an energetic, football-mad Memphis in the right direction during a turbulent youth. Watching Feyenoord — based just 20 kilometres away in Rotterdam — lift the 1998-99 league title, a five-year-old Memphis told his grandpa, "One day you will be able to watch me play football on TV, too!" Sadly, that never happened as Kees died in 2009, but Memphis would still fulfill his promise to the man who advised him to spurn early advances from Feyenoord to join the more homely PSV Eindhoven.

He would make his Eredivisie debut shortly after his 18th birthday — ironically against Feyenoord — in 2012, and by 2014-15, he was a key figure in a side also featuring Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldium. Memphis finished the Dutch top-flight's leading scorer that season, scoring 22 times including a delicious free-kick against Heerenveen (see above), as PSV won the league title, and a bigger stage beckoned for the Netherlands' hottest young talent.

 

3) Tatt-who?

 

When Memphis netted his first senior international goal — against Australia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup — he kissed the tattoo on his wrist dedicated to Kees, and pointed to the skies. While his body art is well-documented, there is a purpose to his extensive self-inking.  

 

The Christ the Redeemer tattoo on his left side represents that maiden De Oranje goal in Brazil — "That switched a lot of things in my career so that's one of my favourites." — while the tiny circle on his right hand stands for "the small circle that I have, the small circle of friends — they are family for me. I'm not really moving with a lot of people."

 

Memphis Depay, Lyon, goal celebration, lion tattoo

 

His most ostentatious remains the giant lion's face he bears on his back. "The lion on my back represents me – I have the heart of a lion. I got it done in Manchester," he explained. "I always had a feeling that I've been brought up in the jungle: I was always outside, I've been to rough areas and I've been through rough times. The lion is for me, 'the king of the jungle,' and I always stayed on my feet even though it was rough."

 

Was it also a sign that destiny would eventually call him to France's second city? It would seem so. "I felt I had to come here," Memphis said when he did some inking of his own on a four-and-a-half year contract with Lyon in January 2017.

 

4) A (Red) Devil of a time

 

The route to Lyon from PSV took Depay via Manchester. Inevitably, his performances for the Eindhoven outfit had caught many eyes, and United were not the only ones pursuing this prococious talent. 

 

The influence of compatriot Louis van Gaal — the then-United boss — was undeniable in convincing Depay to turn down Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain among others to move to Old Trafford. When the new signing asked for the fabled number 7 shirt — worn previously by George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham, and recently vacated by Angel Di Maria following his transfer to PSG — hopes were high the 20-time English champions had found a new hero.

 

Memphis Depay, Lyon, Netherlands

 

Things did not, however, go according to script. Depay scored just seven goals and registered a meagre six assists in 53 competitive appearances for United where his lifestyle had led to United legend Ryan Giggs — then one of Van Gaal's assistant coaches — to give him a dressing-room dressing-down.

 

"Ryan can give advice," said Van Gaal. "You can see a lot of qualities in a player but he has to put that quality into the service of the team. That also happened with Angel di Maria and [Radamel] Falcao, great players but you have to fit in the philosophy. We have to wait and see with Memphis also, with every player we bought.

 

"I still believe in him. Why not? The problem with young players is that they are not consistent. We have to give him time for that."

 

Van Gaal's faith departed when the ex-Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach was replaced by Jose Mourinho in summer 2016. Within six months, Depay was gone too with Lyon his destination.

 

5) A bad rap?

 

It's ironic for a man whose trademark goal celebration is to put his fingers in his ears that Memphis loves music so much. His coach at PSV, Fred Rutten, warned his young prodigy that "rap was taking too much of his time" and that "he couldn't be the best footballer and the best rapper at the same time." 

 

Football won that battle in Memphis' mind, but not entirely. Inspired by a trip to Ghana — the birthplace of his biological father, Dennis Depay — Memphis released a single called 'Akwaaba', and had previously recorded a rap track with his Netherlands teammate Quincy Promes.

"At one point I became deaf and blind to the world, I have not looked at everything that happens around me," said Depay, explaining he set up his 'Memphis Foundation' to "give back to the world and create awareness through the passion I hold in music."

 

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