Memphis Depay crushed a teenager’s soul just because it would be fun

Memphis Depay has barely had any time off between the end of last season and the start of this one, but that might be a good thing.

Given the effort involved in their Champions League campaign, and its proximity to the restart of the Ligue 1 season, Lyon might have been forgiven for taking a while to get back up to speed.

That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Memphis, though, with the Dutchman picking up where he left off in the form of a beautifully disrespectful approach to his team’s match against Dijon on Friday night.

It could be that Memphis is making up for lost time, having spent several months on the sidelines fighting back from injury while others were merely left frustrated by the impossibility of playing competitive football while fit and healthy.

Alternatively, there’s every chance he would have been prepared to take the piss just as much at any time of any year; his Champions League panenka against Juventus pointed towards this being the case.

Either way, we should be grateful for the return of a player who does things for his own entertainment as much as that of others, all while continuing to deliver in the numbers column.

Memphis scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 victory over Dijon, but his standout moments didn’t involve him putting the ball in the back of the net.

When Dijon defender Ahmad Ngouyamsa signed his first professional contract with the club earlier in 2020, he said, “The most important thing for me was to make my parents happy.”

Why are we bringing this up here? Simply, we want to recognise it as shorthand. An acknowledgement that this man has a family. A recognition that Memphis knows as much, yet still does what he does.

You can call this a steep learning curve for Ngouyamsa, if you’re feeling generous to the teenager. Alternatively, you can recognise it for what it is: a harsh truth that, when you’re up against Memphis in this mood, there’s nothing to learn beyond the truism that you can’t win.

In putting Memphis’ cross past his own goalkeeper, Wesley Lautoa is performing an act of generosity to his young team-mate, taking some of the attention away from the initial soul-destroying movement.

However, while it might help in the moment, and even for a day or two after the game, we would later be reminded that the only person with any real power to make it about someone else is Memphis himself.

Let’s be clear here: when Memphis produces such a touch, you’ve already lost.

All fear of losing the ball has disappeared. He’s not even worried about inciting a foul from an opponent.

This is a man who has decided the pitch is his own playground, and the power of that absolute certainty is going to push him forward. The best thing you can do, for your own health, is stay out of his way until he gets bored, picks up his ball and goes inside for dinner.

It’s easy to look at the Dutchman’s three-goal haul and attempt to pick at it, pointing to the fact that two of the three came from the penalty spot, and in these circumstances it’s tough to push back against facts. But things get trickier when you’re invited to pick at the other elements.

In the performance against Dijon, he is able to shut down arguments from both directions: he’s not someone with a solely highlight reel game, nor is he a strictly stat-padding forward, and he’s able to alternate between the two depending on who he wants or needs to silence.

Whether Memphis plays out the full season in a Lyon shirt or gets tempted away by a club in a different league, it will take a lot to stop him playing football in a way which appeals to him before he begins to worry about anyone else.

By Tom Victor

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