The signing of Memphis Depay sticks with the theme this summer at Barcelona of bringing in free transfers, and signing them to short-term contracts.
This is the third free transfer following Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.
After the “will he stay or will he go” drama with Ronald Koeman, president Joan Laporta is showing his short-term plan, while trying to create flexibility to pivot in a new direction if things don’t work out.
Bringing in Depay is a gesture to the manager from the president. I’m giving you the player you asked for, now go out there and show us what you can do with him.
And with the logjam of forwards on the roster, Koeman will have important decisions to make.
The signing of Depay comes with little risk. After a long courting process, Barcelona was able to seal the deal because of the relationship between the player and the manager.
It was a fortunate bit of business when you consider the way PSG stole Georginio Wijnaldum from under their noses by offering higher wages. It could’ve happened with Depay but it didn’t, because Barcelona is where he truly wants to be.
At 27 years old, Memphis is coming off some of the best seasons of his career at Lyon. Just last year, he put up 20 goals and 12 assists in 37 matches.
When Koeman was still managing the Dutch national team, Memphis was his go to guy in Euro 2020 qualifying, providing 6 goals and 7 assists during the campaign.
That’s not to say his career is without blemishes. He was a high-profile arrival at Manchester United in 2015, but only managed 2 goals in two seasons playing under Louis van Gaal, another Dutch manager with a Barcelona history.
There is something to be said about the chemistry between managers and players. Koeman and Memphis know each other, and have had success together. That matters, and it will give Memphis a leg up with earning playing time among the forwards.
Memphis Depay’s record for the Netherlands under Ronald Koeman was ridiculous:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 11, 2020
⬡ 18 games
⬢ 11 goals
⬢ 11 assists
Will they ever be reunited? pic.twitter.com/QGwgVP6K7O
It will be up to him, however, to do something with the opportunities.
Barca has been searching for a structure that allows the prodigious talent up front to thrive together.
Not having a true striker has been a glaring problem. Sergio Aguero is the most likely candidate to fill those boots, but at his age, and coming off a significant injury, expect to see Koeman give the nod to Memphis instead.
He’s not a number nine, but has functioned well under a 4-3-3 at Lyon in that role. You could also realistically see Koeman move Memphis to the left wing, in which case Messi would play as a false nine.
On paper, none of these options are ideal. Players will need to develop an understanding of one another that didn’t really exist last year. Koeman will need to do a better job of explicitly communicating what he needs from his players at each position.
A new season is a blank slate. Most of the team will be healthy and ready to make the case that they have what it takes to succeed at the greatest club in the world.
Memphis will have to outshine the likes of Ansu Fati and Antoine Griezmann among others.
It’ll take more than what we saw from him at a disappointing tournament at the Euros.
But he does have a coach who believes in him, and a chance to define his legacy at a club he’s dreamed of playing for.
As far as I’m concerned, let the competition begin and let’s see which players want it the most.
With the signing of Memphis, there’s little to lose and a lot to gain.