Memphis joins Manchester United on a four-year contract with the option to extend for a further year from Dutch sidPSV Eindhovene.
Memphis made 124 senior appearances and scored 50 times for PSV Eindhoven after coming through the club’s youth system, making his first-team debut in September 2011. The 21-year-old was the Eredivisie’s top scorer this season with 22 goals in 30 games (and 28 in 40 games including European matches).
The young winger has so far played 16 times for the Netherlands national team, scoring three goals, and he was one of three players shortlisted for the Young Player Award at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Memphis Depay said: “This is a dream come true for me; to play for the biggest club in the world and also to have the chance to work with someone who I believe is the best manager in the world, Louis van Gaal. I have great belief in my ability and I work hard to strive to achieve my dreams.
“I have been at PSV Eindhoven since I was 12 years old and I would like to thank them for everything. It was a great moment when we won the league and I was so happy to be part of that. This is now a new chapter in my life and one that I am looking forward to.”
Louis van Gaal said: “I know Memphis well from our time working together in the Netherlands national team. He is a young versatile player who has the ability to play in a number of different positions.
“It will take time for Memphis to get used to the rhythm of the Premier League but I have no doubt that he has the potential to become a great footballer for this club and he is at the right club to continue the good work he has done so far.”
Memphis Depay was unveiled as a Manchester United player on Friday afternoon after signing for the club last month. At the time, manager Louis van Gaal claimed he wasn’t a fan of doing transfer business before the season had finished, but with PSG and Liverpool making their move, United were forced to act.
Manager Brendan Rodgers claimed that Liverpool had never been interested in Depay, a bid to save face, but PSV technical director Marcel Brands confirmed that Liverpool had approached the player and been knocked back.
“Liverpool contacted us and talked with the player,” he said. “They were also one of the clubs interested, but at the end Memphis had the final decision and he chose Manchester United.”
There was no need for Rodgers to get on the defensive; Van Gaal was always going to have the advantage in this deal since he had taken Depay to the World Cup last summer when Van Gaal managed the Dutch national team. Also, as Rodgers thoughtfully pointed out last year, not having Champions League football damages a club’s ability of signing the best players. United has replaced Liverpool in the top four, and since Depay scored six goals in nine Europa League games last season, he will obviously be keen to make the step up to Europe’s elite competition.
If snubbing their hated rivals wasn’t enough to make him popular among United fans, everything he has said since the deal was confirmed won’t have harmed his reputation.
Last month, Depay claimed that he wanted to sign for United since he was 12, and in every interview since, he has talked about the transfer being a “dream come true” and hailed United as “the biggest club in the world.” Players are well-versed in their PR-polished statements these days, and it’s a struggle to think of the last time United signed a player who didn’t make this claim about the club’s size.
United may well be the “most valuable” club; according to a Forbes report this week, they are the most valuable sports team in the world, worth an incredible £1.43 billion, putting them ahead of the New York Yankees and Real Madrid. But as it stands, while beating Liverpool to players may be satisfying for United supporters, it does little to prove the club’s billing in world football.
They are about to lose their best player of the past two seasons, David de Gea, to Real Madrid, just as they did six years ago when Cristiano Ronaldo left for Spain. The biggest club in the world shouldn’t need to do an awful lot to convince their most important player to stay, but United had to beg Ronaldo to stay for one more season in the summer of 2008 on the condition he would be allowed to leave the following summer.
Ramon Calderon, Real Madrid’s president at the time, recalled this week how he heard the news that Ronaldo had signed a contract extension at United.
“I got a phone call from Cristiano saying, ‘Mr. President, I’m so sorry. I have to do this because I’m quite happy with the club. Ferguson is like a father to me. I’m in love with the fans, everything here, but we have an agreement I will go next year.'”
Maybe the real dream for Depay will be to follow Ronaldo to Madrid, but for now, he has a lot of work to do at United, just as the club’s former No. 7 didTo be the top scorer in your league at only 21 years old — and playing on the wing — is some feat, so it makes sense for United fans to be excited about the signing. However, it’s important not to get too carried away.
Alfred Finnbogason was the Eredivisie’s top scorer the season before, but he managed only two goals for Real Sociedad this year after signing for them last summer. The year before that it was Wilfried Bony, who did well in his first season at Swansea but has struggled at Manchester City. Being the top scorer in the Netherlands doesn’t necessarily mean that ability is transferable to a more difficult league.
Still, despite the comparisons being drawn between Depay and Ronaldo, United’s new signing is keen to keep his feet on the ground, with the hope he can one day be a club legend.
“I’m going to let my feet speak,” Depay said today. “I hope I can develop here in the Premier League, and I hope I can be like those great legends one time in my career. I’m going to work hard, so let’s see. I believe I can be a great player for Manchester United.”
Patience will likely be required with Depay as he adapts to the Premier League and finds a place for himself in Van Gaal’s team. But he will likely be looking at Ashley Young and Angel di Maria (based on last season’s form) and fancy himself for a starting role.
The BBC have reported that Depay has set United back £31 million, making him the third-most expensive player the club has ever bought behind Di Maria and Juan Mata. There should therefore be high expectations of the winger, but just as United found out last season, there needs to be the understanding that it could take time before the fans see the best of him.