Barcelona have been lackluster this season. While a resurgent Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi duo is carrying the front line at the Nou Camp, they’re still a shadow of their former glory days. Could Memphis Depay be the answer to their strike woes? The answer appeared to be yes, that was until the transfer fell through last summer.
The 26-year-old was left rueing a move to the Nou Camp, after having agreed to personal terms with the club and its manager, Ronald Koeman — the man who’d coached him for the national team prior to accepting the FC Barcelona job.
As a result, the Spanish juggernaut canceled the loan of Ousmanne Dembele to Manchester United. Depay’s failed move set off a domino effect on the rest of Barcelona’s transfer activity, which revolved around selling and rebuilding following last season’s humiliating 8-2 demolition at the hands of Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League.
The sale of Luis Suárez was heavily criticized by Ander Herrera.
“It’s fucked up,” the Spanish PSG midfielder said.
Arturo Vidal, Nelson Semedo and Ivan Rakitić were also sold by the Barcelona board to recoup funds. Suárez went for $7 million, Vidal went for $2 million, Semedo for $35 million and Rakitić for $2 million. But the funds were insufficient.
As a result, Barcelona was unable to reinvest this influx of funds into much needed areas.
They signed right back Serginho Dest — the first American to start for FC Barcelona, and Pedri. Coutinho returned from his loan to Bayern Munich, where he won a treble and scored against his parent club.
But the main area where Barcelona failed to rebuild was the striker position. Suárez, Barcelona’s third-highest scorer of all time, left the club through the back door. His replacement? The already-present Antoine Griezmann. Unfortunately, the backup plan may not be as effective as the Barcelona board envisioned in 2019.
Griezmann has transcended from second-striker, during the 2016 European Champions and Atlético Madrid Champions League campaign, to more of a deep-dropping playmaker. His days as a pure striker are behind him. That, in spite of Barcelona’s history of the false nine, where with Lionel Messi at the helm, they won the 2009 treble.
Despite Griezmann scoring two goals against Getafe in a 5-2 win in La Liga, the Frenchman’s tenure at the Nou Camp has been lackluster for the most part.
Barcelona has been chasing the Champions League for five years now. Since their 2015 victory, the Cules haven’t made it beyond a 2019 semifinal appearance — when they collapsed 4-0 in the second leg against [team].
This year, they’re pinned 4-1 against a strong Paris Saint-Germain side who is without Neymar.
Their Champions League campaign seems all but over, and yet, this is the same PSG that Depay has had no problem dismantling in years past.
In the French Ligue 1 title race, Lyon are also rivaling PSG for the title. Depay seems to have no trouble competing with the big guns at the top of the domestic competition.
However, one heavy criticism of the french league is its lack of an imposing presence in Europe. Only one team has won a UEFA Champions League: Marseille in 1993. While PSG made the final last year, losing narrowly 1-0 to Bayern Munich, French teams have failed to make an impact in the biggest competition in football. But last season, Depay set to change that narrative.
When “Mr. Champions League” himself, Cristiano Ronaldo laced up for Juventus against Lyon, he was the former Manchester United #7 that caught the headlines. But after the tie was over, it was Depay.
In their Round of 16 knockout tie, Lyon and Juventus fought for 180 minutes, with the French outlet winning the tie on away goals. Depay overperformed, scoring the crucial penalty that would knock Juventus out. In the following round, he was integral in their elimination of competition favorites Manchester City.
This year, Lyon haven’t been able to replicate their fairytale Champions League run, but are making a strong chase for the domestic league title.
With Depay’s stock value still high, Lyon might want to cash in on the striker while they have the chance.
Last summer, the transfer fell through due to finances, but this year, Barca will have no choice but to cough up the cash for someone to replace Lionel Messi. The Argentine icon contact is set to expire on June 1, and he has expressed on numerous occasions his desire to leave the club.
With former Dutch national team coach, Ronald Koeman, at the helm at Barcelona, will he lure Depay to the Nou Camp to kickstart the post-Messi era? Will he don the famous number 10 jersey of Barcelona, the way he does for the Netherlands? We’ll have to wait and see.