Memphis Depay of Atletico de Madrid icelebrates a goal during the LaLiga EA Sports 2023/24 match between Atletico de Madrid and Granada at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on AUGUST 14, 2023.

Go home everyone – Memphis Depay has already won this year’s Puskas Award

Occasionally, you witness a piece of art so awe-inspiring that it literally stops you in your tracks. And the beauty is that, if asked to name their personal examples of this phenomenon, each human being will come up with different answers.

It could be the first time you saw Black Mirror (the Channel 4 episodes, not the pale imitation masquerading as the latest series) and were left pondering over a plot twist you never saw coming.

Or it could be watching Lionel Messi for the first time, seeing the pint-sized Argentine weave his way past defenders like the opposition had picked 11 ghosts before curling the ball irresistibly past the goalkeeper.

Or it could be the time Danny Dyer called David Cameron a tw*t on live television. That’s the beauty of art; it’s entirely subjective and something that will leave one person nonplussed will trigger goosebumps in their companion.

But surely we’re all agreed that Memphis Depay has already blessed the 2023-24 season with its first real entry into the canon of human achievement.

As Atletico Madrid toiled against newly-promoted Granada, with Diego Simeone simmering away on the touchline like a pot of cocido madrileno, Depay received a square pass from Yannick Carrasco and let nature take its course.

Few would’ve conceived of thumping the ball towards the net with the power of a NASA rocket launching itself towards Mars. Few would’ve anticipated the shot whistling towards its intended target with the dead-eyed efficiency of next-day delivery from Amazon Prime.

And even fewer still would’ve imagined those events would’ve taken place in the time it takes to remove a pipa from its shell. But sometimes, fate combines to send shivers up your spine.

Depay’s howitzer was enough to secure Atleti victory in their opening La Liga match, as the second in their 3-1 triumph, emphasising the beauty that the souls inside the Estadio Metropolitano had witnessed.

One of Europe’s most exciting talents – at least, at some points over the past decade – had produced an indelible reminder of the ability that made opponents quiver and coaches swoon.

“I had the experience of playing against them last year. I was impressed by the new stadium and the intensity with which they play, the fighting spirit,” Depay said in January 2023 after completing his move to the Spanish capital following a difficult spell at Barcelona.

“We had a bad time, we lost. It’s a very big club and a good team. I’ve heard a lot of good stories about them. The club made it clear to me that they wanted me to be in the team.”

Depay also revealed that he had spoken to Antoine Griezmann, another talented forward that failed to shine at Camp Nou, about Atleti before deciding to take the plunge.

“I already spoke with Griezmann before coming. He told me a lot of good things and when I arrived it was not a surprise. It was as I expected. They welcomed me with open arms and everything was comfortable and pleasant. It’s a wonderful stadium and I’d like to play a game and experience the feeling.”

After struggling for minutes at Barcelona, the Netherlands international scored four times in nine appearances at the back end of last season. Fairly middling at first glance, but enough to help Diego Simeone’s side into the Champions League for another season.

And Depay has started the 2023-24 campaign by adding the Puskas Award to his list of personal accolades. Probably. Put it this way, the goal that’ll beat his effort on a sultry evening at the Metropolitano will be playing in the waiting room to heaven.

By Michael Lee

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