When Memphis Depay made his move from PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United in the summer of 2015, fans had high expectations for the Dutch youngster. With a track record as a winger who was also a prolific goalscorer, and a free-kick specialist, instant comparisons were drawn with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Depay was duly handed Ronaldo’s old number, the famous Manchester United No. 7 shirt. But while there were early signs of promise, beginning with a strong performance against Club Brugge in a Champions League qualifier, Depay seemed to be weighed down by expectations.
The Dutchman often struggled to impose himself on games, and seemed to get easily frustrated when things weren’t going his way. Even the famous free-kicks never materialized, as Depay never came close to displaying the set-piece prowess that he had shown in the Netherlands.
There were some highs, most notably a stellar performance against Midtjylland in the Europa League at Old Trafford where he ran the show, although he was upstaged by Marcus Rashford’s fairytale debut. But by and large, Depay’s Manchester United career will go down as a case of disappointingly unfulfilled potential.
Yet, even after his move to Lyon was confirmed on Friday, there were clear indications that he is thought of highly at Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho praised the winger for his professionalism, and said the decision to sell the player was down to there being too many players vying for spots on the wing.
The United manager also suggested that if Depay succeeds in France, he could return to Old Trafford – the two clubs have reportedly agreed a buy-back clause.
If Depay does get a second chance at Manchester United, he will certainly have a point to prove.
He’d hope to follow in the footsteps of a few other stars who managed to revive their careers in France…
FIVE FRENCH REVIVALS
Hatem Ben Arfa
Ben Arfa was always considered an explosive talent, but when he announced himself to the Premier League with a stunning spell at Newcastle United, he’d already had a disappointing end to life in France.
After his career in England went in the same direction, he returned home and promptly tore up the league with Nice, earning a big-money move to champions PSG.
Balotelli looked like the next big thing during his early days at Manchester City, but a bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini and a drop in form derailed his career.
He went to Liverpool to try to revive his fortunes, but his time in Merseyside was even more disappointing, and he was sold to Nice last summer. Balotelli has played like a man possessed since his move to lead the Nice to a surprising spot at the top of the Ligue 1 table.
Like Ben Arfa, Falcao moved to England after excelling in France. However, his Premier League career never took off during spells with Manchester United and Chelsea.
But having returned to Monaco, Falcao has rediscovered his form, and he is now Ligue 1’s third-highest scorer this season.
Barton’s loan move from QPR to Marseille in 2012 came as a surprise to many. The Englishman had a checkered history prior to the move, and QPR’s decision to offload him was seen as confirmation that Barton was too undisciplined to handle.
However, he was a solid performer for Marseille, although even in France he was never far from controversy. His loan spell was enough to convince QPR to keep him the following season, and he duly helped Rangers get promoted to the Premier League in 2013.
Diarra’s early career included stops at Chelsea and Arsenal, and he did enough in the Premier League to earn a move to Real Madrid. However, he fell down the pecking order at the Santiago Bernabeu and ended up moving to Russia.
After two seasons in the footballing wilderness, Diarra signed for Marseille in 2015, and immediately rediscovered his form, being named to the Ligue 1 Team of the Season last year.
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