2021: The year of Memphis
Depay has been in sensational form for both club and country since the beginning of the year, notching 23 goals and counting, including two strikes at Euro 2020.
But what can this be put down to?
For much of his early career at PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and his first seasons at Lyon, the Dutchman was deployed in a variety of roles – be it on the left flank, behind the striker or occasionally as a centre-forward.
However, it is up front where he has mainly been ultilised since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, and it’s a position where he now feels right at home.
Depay’s two goals and one assist in his opening three matches for Barcelona will only have raised expectations at the Camp Nou, after he was handed the number nine shirt upon his arrival.
But becoming one of the most consistent forwards in European football has been a difficult journey for the Moordrecht-born star.
Highs and lows
It has been almost a decade since Depay first burst onto the scene, making his senior PSV debut aged just 17 in 2011.
Throughout that season and the following 2012-13 campaign, he bided his time and made just a handful of appearances, as well as earning caps at Dutch youth level.
His breakout season came in 2013-14 as he began to light up the Eredivisie, earning a first senior call-up to Van Gaal’s Netherlands side.
A place in the Oranje’s 2014 World Cup squad followed, giving the wider footballing world an initial glimpse at the then 20-year-old’s talents – and his two goals at the tournament saw him become the youngest Dutchman to ever score at a World Cup.
One more season at PSV followed and it was his best to date, with 22 goals in 30 league games making some of Europe’s elite sit up and take notice.
Interested parties included Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Manchester United, and it was to be Old Trafford where Depay headed next for a £25million fee.
Perhaps it was a simple decision, given that Van Gaal – the man who gave him his national team debut – was in charge at the Red Devils, but Depay’s dream move soon turned into a nightmare.
He couldn’t replicate his Eredivisie goalscoring form in England, finding the back of the net just twice in the Premier League.
After Van Gaal was sacked at the end of 2015-16, Jose Mourinho was brought in and denied the Dutchman any meaningful playing time, limiting his league involvement to just four substitute appearances.
Only 18 months into a four-year contract, Depay was on his way to Lyon.
Turfed out of the Premier League with his credibility in tatters, Depay set about rebuilding his reputation.
It didn’t take him long to find his feet in French football, with five goals and seven assists in the second half of 2016-17 following his £17million move.
His first full campaign at the Groupama Stadium saw him back to his best, with 19 league goals plus another three in European competition.
A memorable four-and-a-half year stint at Lyon resulted in Depay scoring 76 times in 178 appearances across all competitions, and it could have been even more.
He tore his ACL midway through 2019-20 in a fixture against Rennes, cutting short a successful season which had seen him score nine goals in 13 league games.
This summer, Depay completed a dream transfer to Camp Nou and – although he would have loved to be lining up alongside Messi – he now has the chance to steal the limelight at one of the biggest clubs in world football.