We know that, sooner or later, Memphis Depay will leave PSV for a major European club. Such is life in the Eredivisie, where teams rely on funds generated by player sales to sustain and rejuvenate. However, whilst one argument says to quickly cash-in on Depay following a breakthrough World Cup, it’s worth at least comprehending what PSV could achieve by keeping hold of, and further embracing, their talented phenom.

  • By Ryan Ferguson
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depchiDepay models his game and image on Cristiano Ronaldo. The dramatic stance prior to free-kicks; the technique of striking through the centre of a ball to make it dart beyond an unsuspecting goalkeeper; the explosive runs and wonderful goals which instantly change a game. These are traits mastered by Ronaldo and, for want of a better word, imitated by Depay.

Similarly, I feel that, just as Cristiano hauled Portugal to the World Cup and Real Madrid to La Décima, Memphis has the ability, temperament and ambition to inspire PSV and bring back the success which Eindhoven yearns for.

During the summer, Depay became the youngest player ever to score a World Cup goal for Oranje, with his sizzling effort against Australia beating the record set by Boudewijn Zenden in 1998. He scored again in the terse battle with Chile, exploding some sixty yards down the field to prod home an Arjen Robben centre.

But, in truth, Memphis’ exponential growth during the tournament cannot be measured in mere goals and assists. Rather, we must look at the positive effect working with established superstars has had on him; the way he looks so comfortable around an experienced group of megastars; and the maturity he has shown in performing at a gaudy level. We must look at how Louis van Gaal believes in Memphis; how he became his nation’s go-to man; how this whole adventure has transformed his game, made him hungry, made him dream.

“In the last few weeks I’ve become a better player,” Depay concluded recently about his first prolonged taste of international football. “I’m learning so much from the guys around me. They’ve made me wiser.” Any regular Eredivisie watcher can see it just by looking at him. By working with players like van Persie, Robben and Nigel de Jong, Memphis has grown in stature. On the field, he doesn’t look out-of-place alongside these Dutch footballing demigods, with their multiple European Cup winners medals and hundreds of collective caps. He isn’t fazed by the esteemed company; he’s inspired it. He doesn’t shrink amid the pressure; he shrives on it. He doesn’t look shy or weak or reticent on the field; he’s big, bold, commanding. It’s refreshing to see.

Clearly, working with stars at the highest level brings the best out of Memphis Depay. Thus, many argue that moving immediately to Manchester United or Internazionale or Real Madrid is in his best interests. However, in first translating to the Eredivisie the skills he learnt this summer, Depay could become an even better player; the Dutch breeding ground providing more margin for error and more game time as he seeks to master those nascent attributes of a global superstar.

After one more season of true domination in the Eredivisie, one more year of learning and growing and striving for excellence, Memphis would be more likely to make a success of his inexorable excursion into Europe. In leaving now, as a raw prodigy, he may flame out after a year or two. But, in staying at PSV a little longer, under the tutelage of Phillip Cocu, he will have the time, space and freedom needed to evolve naturally into a genuine star capable of playing abroad for five, ten or even fifteen years.

The Depay camp seems to be grappling with this same internal dialogue. “Of course I’ve read that Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are interested,” said the 20-year old forward during the World Cup. “But I’ve not yet become a champion with PSV.”

For the best part of six years, nobody has. Hope and yearning has gradually turned to anger and frustration in Eindhoven, as PSV slipped from perennial contention at home and abroad amid managerial incoherence and financial insecurity. Now, with the club forced to adopt a more frugal approach, winning the Eredivisie would take a concerted effort; PSV’s salary cap and near-exclusive use of unproven young players making them relative “underdogs” in an Ajax-dominant era.

Gone are the days when the club would steamroll to trophy-after-trophy, with Guus Hiddink plotting the journey and Mark van Bommel ensuring it was adhered to. Now, PSV, once a relentless juggernaut, has come back to the chasing pack. It would take a coaching master-class or an inspirational superstar to coax from this squad a title-winning effort.

Memphis Depay may just be that superstar; that rare breed who can place this fabled club upon his back and bridge the widening gap from also-ran to champion; that hero to be forever lauded in Eindhoven after restoring its club to greatness.

By adding a few experienced players around a motivated Depay, and tailoring a tactical gameplan aimed to unleash him at every opportunity, PSV could find the antidote to their woes. Eredivisie defences will struggle to cope with the new-and-improved Depay and, to that end, he remains the brightest light at the end of the tunnel for PSV fans. Memphis is Cocu’s trump card; the one player who keeps PSV within dreaming distance of glory.

If he leaves, the clubs rebuild will be temporarily suspended, all momentum will be lost, and the famine will likely continue.

If he stays, Depay could effectively win the league for PSV, ending years of hardship, firing the club back into the elite echelon where it belongs, and bringing joy to thousands.

Then, he could depart into the sunset; a victor, a champion, a homegrown hero.

It’s the least he could do for a club which has given him everything over the past decade.

Depay’s presence would not only boost the attempts of PSV to dominate domestically and compete on the continent, but also provide the club with a unique marketing opportunity through which an international fanbase could be cultivated. Such is the nature of modern football consumption, fans from all over the world watch games via internet streams and satellite television. Accordingly, top European clubs vie for the attention (and money) of a truly global community. In keeping Depay, PSV would have a major weapon in this race; new waves of people eager to watch him, and thus PSV matches, following a revelatory World Cup. Perhaps some new viewers will fall in love with the club, like myself ten years ago, opening new revenue streams from ticket and merchandise sales; revenue streams which would further aid PSV in closing the gap to Ajax.

However, for all the romantic dreaming, we must acknowledge reality. PSV are absolute masters of producing, developing and selling players for huge profits; a skill which is even more pertinent in an era of comparative financial difficulty for the club. PSV sold Ruud Gullit for a world record, €8m fee in 1987; Ronaldo for €15.5m in 1996; Jaap Stam for €18m in 1998; Ruud van Nistelrooy for a Dutch record, €30.5m bounty in 2001; Arjen Robben for €18m in 2004; and Kevin Strootman for €20m just last summer.

Add in the sale of players like Balázs Dzsudzsák, Jefferson Farfán, Heurelho Gomes and Arouna Koné, and it becomes evident that PSV know exactly what they’re doing. Those in charge typically gauge with fine dexterity when, and for how much, a player should leave the Philips Stadion. Therefore, I trust Cocu, Marcel Brands and incoming General Manager Toon Gerbrands to ultimately make the correct decision for the long-term prosperity of PSV.

Undoubtedly, they face a large conundrum. In choosing to sell Memphis Depay right now, they’d likely receive €25-30m, with which to speculate on new acquisitions and investments. But, in electing to keep him at the Philips Stadion for just one more year, they may stumble across a passport out of obscurity and back to the Promised Land. Now that is truly priceless.

Ryan Ferguson (23 Posts)