As Olympique Lyonnais’ 26-year-old attacker Memphis Depay is edging closer to Barcelona, is he a missing piece for the team, or an unneeded whim from Dutch coach Ronald Koeman?
As the years under the reign of Josep Maria Bartomeu have gone by, Barcelona fans have gotten used to a bag load of senseless transfers. It would have been fine if it was only about poor negotiations and overpaying for players, but it trickles down to something more than that.
The business referred to here is shady, unplanned, and conducted by keeping the best interests of a particular individual at heart instead of the club. Category one has players bought as part of suspicious money laundering activities like Paulinho, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Miralem Pjanić, etc.
We also have players bought just for the sake of weakening a rival or marketing purposes, even though they do not fit the system. Case in point: Antoine Griezmann or Arda Turan. Ruining player’s careers by buying them with no real intention of playing them include Malcom, Jean-Clair Todibo and Yerry Mina, among countless others.
However, recently, Barcelona has been linked with a move for Olympique Lyon’s Memphis Depay with personal terms as good as done, and the transfer almost inevitable at this point. Even though Memphis has one year left on his contract, the reported fee – somewhere between 25 and 30 million – could make this an absolute bargain.
Over the last two seasons, Depay has come out as the protagonist for the Lyon and the Netherland national team, playing in multiple positions across the attack, taking responsibility on the ball. During this time, the former PSV and Manchester United player shifted more permanently to a central role, operating alongside Moussa Dembélé in a twin striker system, or as a false 9 or no. 10 in the hole for Lyon. Despite the shift in function and position, the Dutch international has managed to maintain his top-notch output for club and country.
In the 2019/20 season, for example, before his cruciate ligament injury, Depay scored nine goals and assisted two in just 13 games, averaging a goal every 113 minutes. He is, though, a lot more than his goal returns.
Depay boasts of excellent anchor activity and continuously drops deep to construct plays in the attack. He has the intelligence to interpret space in the centre of the park and the eye for a defence-splitting through ball. In the 19/20 term, he managed 1.9 key passes per game, creating five big chances. 2018/19 gives us an even larger sample size, one that suggests that Depay played in a massive 3.1 key passes per game – highest that season –, creating 14 big chances – fourth highest.
Depay’s KP90 – Passes leading to shots per 90 – is also a testament to his ability to create while playing as a centre-forward, averaging 2.43 passes per game in the 19/20 and 3.62 in the 18/19. When we compare it to players who play similarly – starting in the centre before moving wide – , Depay comes out on top against some of the best.
For example, Karim Benzema’s stats hover at 1.45 and 1.67, respectively, while Timo Werner and Kai Havertz stay at 1.98 and 1.72, respectively. Depay’s numbers are quite clear of Barcelona’s current striker Luis Suárez, at 1.18, and Barcelona’s preferred striker, Lautaro Martinez, at 1.12.
Depay’s contributions as a striker in the 2018/19 – the season where he played 35 games | Graph by Understat
Not only would the playmaking abilities of Memphis Depay take some pressure off Lionel Messi at Barcelona, but he would also be likely to benefit in terms of goal contributions because of it. Messi plays as a winger on paper but likes to leave his space and rove in the middle.
In the recent past, though, this has been a problem with Luis Suárez on the pitch. The Uruguayan is not in his days of youth, and can no longer show the athleticism of his peak days. This consequently impacts the team’s ability to play a fluid front three who can interchange positions on the pitch. With Memphis Depay part of the Barcelona front three, Messi could comfortably take the role in the centre while drifting wide. One of Ousmane Dembélé or Ansu Fati could start as the winger and switch sides depending on the positioning of Messi.
One thing that could be of concern is that Depay is a player who likes to stay in control of the ball, even if it means continually moving elsewhere on the pitch. Barça, however, have several players like this, including Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Francisco Trincão and Pedri. What the team lacks, and probably needs is a runner – a player who can carry the ball into the final third and run at the opposition. Ansu Fati matches this style, but at 17, he might not get too many chances over others. Dembélé, on the other hand, can easily take up this responsibility but has proven to be unreliable due to his recurring hamstring injuries.
Additionally, Memphis Depay is the protagonist of both his teams, acting as the linchpin who does it all, but at Barcelona, he might not get that. The likes of Griezmann are already ready to take up that obligation in case Messi does not play.
Memphis’ role with his club allows him the freedom to try outlandish things, like taking on multiple players at once instead of passing the ball, or shooting from unfathomable distances. For instance, in the 2018/19 campaign, Depay attempted 62 shots from outside the box, only three of which had an xG of more than 0.10. He managed to convert only three of these chances, one of which had the xG of 0.03.
It is thus clear that Memphis Depay is a volume shooter – something Barcelona lacks apart from Messi, but he will have to keep a stable head on his shoulders while wearing the Garnet and the Blue.
Memphis Depay’s shot map from the 2018/19 season | Graph by Understat
Nevertheless, there is little doubt over Memphis’ abilities, leading Lyon to a Champions League semi-finals, and his country to the UEFA Nations League final. This transfer has similar pros and cons, and it is natural that the fans are suspect due to the same as it sounds utopian and almost perfect to come true at Barcelona, but, for 25 million, it might just be too good to pass up on.
Five players that Barcelona could off-load in order to sign Erling Haaland
In Catalonia, many news outlets are reporting that President-elect Joan Laporta is keen to bring the Norwegian sensation, Erling Braut Haaland, to Barcelona. Laporta’s excellent ties with Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola are known throughout the footballing fraternity. He is keen to use this cordial relationship to bring probably one of the most talented young centre-forwards to Camp Nou.
Haaland’s Contract situation
There have been many rumours about Haaland’s contract and his release clause. It’s said that Dortmund have let in known privately that Haaland’s contract includes a release clause of €75 Million. However, this is valid only from 2022; if any club wishes to sign him before, they need to open talks with Borussia Dortmund and his agent Mino Raiola.
With all said, it looks certain that almost every big club in the world will be looking to land this deal which is rumoured to cost €110 Million. Barcelona’s precarious financial situation means that Laporta and his team needs to make a decision to make some big sales in order to complete the dream of signing Haaland. We take a look at 5 players that Barca can sell in order to get the required funds.
The market value of the Brazilian currently stands around €47 Million. After his very successful loan spell at Bayern Munich, he publicly stated that he was determined to make it big at Barcelona. Ronald Koeman also said that he admires the qualities Coutinho has and would be an integral part of his project. However, six months into the season, it seems that the Brazilian has gone out of favour at the club. The emergence of Pedri and Moriba also doesn’t help his case. It has been reported that if Coutinho plays 100 matches for the Blaugranes, the club will need to pay an additional €20 Million to Liverpool.
Given the fact that Barcelona have many parasitic clauses in the contract with former Liverpool player, it’s very doubtful that any club would be willing to offer what his market value is. A long term injury which has forced him out for a big chunk of the season will also play a part in deciding the transfer sum the Catalan club can get in the transaction.
The French forward has not been able to fit perfectly in the system Barcelona plays, he has produced some good performances in the new year, but lacks the ability to move the ball quickly and take on defenders. Former Barca legend, Hristo Stoichkov, had some very harsh words for Griezzy, “Whenever Griezmann is on the pitch, Barcelona play with ten players. If they want to do something in the long term, they have to sell him. Trincao and Braithwaite must be on the team. What is Griezmann doing there?”, said the Bulgarian to Marca.
Griezmann is currently valued at €58 Million, given his wonderful finishing and relentless work off the ball, many big clubs might be interested in getting his services. The French forward will turn 30 this month, a number many clubs will be looking at very closely while making their decision to sign him.
The Danish forward, without any doubt, is a very hardworking player and has improved on various skills of forward play in his time at Barcelona. With that said, it’s a no brainer to realise the fact that he cannot be Barcelona’s only No.9. Many PL clubs from the bottom half are rumoured to be fond of the former Leganes man. With Barcelona targeting Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay, the danish would certainly become a fringe player and the club will be open to hearing offers for him.
The Dominican Republic fullback was brought in with the motive to give Jordi Alba some competition at the left-back spot. Under all the three managers Barcelona has had during his tenure at the club did not play him much. Barcelona were open to selling him in the January window itself with Inter Milan in the pole position to acquire his services. However, due to some personal reasons, the move was stalled and Junior ended up staying for the remainder of the season.
The Bosnian midfielder was part of what one can say the worst deal that Barcelona has ever made. It’s a relatively known fact that Pjanic was a part of the deal which was meant to ‘balance the books’ by the Bartomeu administration. The former Juventus man has failed to add anything new to the squad and has been out of favour for a long time now. A deal that would see him go to some other big club in Europe would benefit both parties.
The Twist: Leo Messi
After the very unfortunate leaking of Messi’s contract, the entire world is aware of the astronomical contract he has. If the Argentine wizard decides to leave eventually at the end of the season, the club will surely free a very big amount from the wage bill which can be used to make some necessary additions to this squad.
It remains to be seen how things will pan out in the coming summer, but one thing is for sure that Barcelona needs to clear a lot of their squad depth in order to realize the dream to bring the Haaland to Camp Nou.
Jorge Messi will travel to Barcelona on Monday to listen to Barça’s offer, where they will offer him a renewal for another 3 years.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 13, 2021
— TNT pic.twitter.com/ld93SO6JKV
A thing that can be said with certainty is that Laporta is keen to make the signing of Haaland a reality, and come July, Barca will be into the most important transfer window of their history which will shape the future of the club for many years to come.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com