Between 2018 and 2020, Memphis Depay played under the tutelage of Ronald Koeman when the 58-year-old Dutch tactician was serving as the head coach of the Dutch national team.
With the technical prowess of Koeman, Memphis Depay and his other Dutch teammates were one of the teams to reckon with in European football. Their best performance under the coach was in 2019 when the Dutch team finished runner-up in UEFA Nations League.
From the point Ronald Koeman became the coach of Barcelona in 2020 until Depay put pen to paper in July 2021 for the Spanish club, he was linked with a move to Barca. Hence, the speculation was that Koeman wanted him at Barca and he would leave Olympique Lyon for the Spanish giants because of the coach.
In line with the speculation, Memphis Depay failed to extend his contract with Lyon which was seen as a sign that he wanted to leave the club amid transfer speculation linking him with a move to Spain.
Unfortunately for Lyon, Depay failed to extend his contract with Lyon until his contract expired in June 2021. Hence, the 27-year-old Dutch center-forward joined Barcelona for free.
During his unveiling at the Camp Nou on Thursday, July 22, 2021, the question of whether or not he joined Barcelona because of Koeman arose. The striker said though Koeman played a role in the transfer, his move to Barca did not solely depend on the coach.
“[Koeman] played me as a center-forward,” he said. “He made me feel very comfortable and I must thank him for all that.
“I would have come even if he wasn’t here because you can’t say no to Barcelona. I would have still come, but it’s also certain that he has had a big impact.”
Memphis Depay hails Lionel Messi
As he has said earlier, Memphis Depay did not join Barcelona just because of coach Ronald Koeman, he joined the club to fulfill the dream of playing alongside one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game.
Memphis Depay signed a two years contract with Barcelona which could see him play alongside Messi in the next two seasons if the Argentine football icon officially returns to Barcelona ahead of the 2021-2022 season.
While addressing the press during his unveiling on Thursday, Memphis Depay described the chance of playing alongside Messi as a dream come true and called him the best player in the world.
“It is a dream [to play with Messi],” he said. “He is a legend and I don’t need to say too much else. The best player in the world.
“I am really looking forward to playing with Leo and his qualities are clear. I am a big fan.”
In the just-concluded Euro 2020, Memphis Depay helped the Netherlands to get to the knock-out stage of the tournament. The 27-year-old striker played four games in the tournament in which he scored two goals and provided an assist.
Before he left Lyon, Depay played 178 games for the French club between January 2017 and May 2021. In those games, the Netherlands international scored 76 goals and provided 56 assists in all competitions.