Manchester United flop Memphis Depay has transformed into the player his talent promised and is the beating heart of Lyon’s team… now this once-troubled star is out to dash Manchester City’s Champions League dream
- Man City were expecting to take on Juventus in the Champions League quarters
- A clash with former Man United star Cristiano Ronaldo seemed on the cards
- Instead, it is former United No 7 Memphis Depay who City will contend with
- The Dutchman is a man rejuvenated and is flying with the French outfit
In early July, UEFA suits gathered in Nyon and Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain watched via video link as the precarious path to his side’s first Champions League triumph unfolded.
When City landed a potential quarter-final against Juventus or Lyon, it felt the script was written for a former Manchester United No 7 to have his say. On Saturday, though, Cristiano Ronaldo is busy topping up his tan. Instead, after his cheeky penalty downed Juve, it will be another ex-United No 7, Memphis Depay, looking to dash City dreams in Lisbon.
This is the stage where many felt the Dutchman belonged when he first landed in Manchester in 2015 aged only 21, but with that iconic jersey and comparisons with Ronaldo swelling expectations following a £31million transfer from PSV.
Memphis Depay will be out to wreak havoc over Manchester City in the Champions League
The Lyon captain has been in fine form, helping the French outfit to the quarter finals
He could be on the move again as Lyon prepare for more blood-letting this summer. Borussia Dortmund have been linked with the 26-year-old, who could inadvertently help United’s pursuit of Jadon Sancho. That would twist the knife for City if he’s already dumped them out of Europe, too.
In France, Depay still feeds his hobbies of rapping and quirky fashion that brought him off-field attention in Manchester — but now he is Lyon’s captain and beating heart on the pitch.
In this Champions League run, he has scored six in six and his most recent — an audacious panenka in Turin — was the clearest sign yet that this troubled talent had steered himself back on course.
City had expected to take on former Man United star Cristiano Ronaldo at this stage
But instead they’ll have to contend with another former United No 7 in Lisbon on Saturday
The numbers tell their own story: in 53 games during a miserable 18 months at United, Depay managed seven goals and six assists. Since his cut-price move to Lyon in January 2017, he averages a goal (54) or an assist (43) every 103 minutes. That’s why heads are turning once more.
Yet even at United there was little doubting his ability. But he struggled under the rigidity of Louis van Gaal and before one reserve game Depay ignored advice from Wayne Rooney and arrived driving a Rolls-Royce, wearing a leather jacket and a cowboy hat.
And yet his spirit helped convince Lyon coach Rudi Garcia he was right to hand Depay the armband.
The once-troubled talent has steered himself back on course and has played a starring role
Depay still feeds his hobbies that brought him off-field attention but is now Lyon’s star man
Back in December, Lyon reached the knockout stages after a second-half fightback against RB Leipzig. Post-match celebrations turned ugly when a fan held up a banner depicting a donkey and telling Lyon defender Marcelo to ‘get lost’.
Depay charged towards the supporter and tried to grab the sign. He had to be restrained and later accused supporters of spitting on the team. But Garcia insisted: ‘He’s a real captain and he’s acted and spoken like a captain.’
In the days before that Juventus second leg, Depay posed for a photo-shoot — top off, teeth bared, fists clenched. Among the quotes on the cover of France Football? ‘I will always be a bit misunderstood’ and, perhaps more tellingly, ‘I have nothing to prove’. That may be so. But it’s not like City have nothing to fear.
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