The 21-year-old has been linked with Manchester United ever since his strong performances at the World Cup under Louis van Gaal, so we wanted to speak with Stefan to gain more insight into the Dutch winger and why he feels Man United are favourites to sign him this summer.
Hi Stefan. Thanks for talking with The Peoples Person. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I am a keen follower of the Eredivisie and have been Goal.com International’s resident Dutch football expert for the past seven years or so. I have attended and covered several Eredivisie, KNVB Beker, Europa League, Champions League and World Cup games during my time at Goal.
In the 2013/2014 campaign, Depay scored 13 goals in 42 appearances for PSV and the Netherlands. This season he already has 20 goals in 25 appearances for club and country. What has caused Depay to elevate his game in such a short time?
Last season was his first as an undisputed starter at PSV following the departure of Dries Mertens to Napoli and he already made huge progress in 2013-14. He was then rewarded for his fine performances with a place in Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands squad for the World Cup and his presence in Brazil has helped him to another level entirely. Training with world-class players such as Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Nigel de Jong has played a key role in his development, not only making him aware of what it takes to succeed at the highest level, but also helping him mature rapidly over the summer. He has been much more consistent this term than before and even has the ability to be decisive when he is not on top of his game.
A goal-scoring record of 0.8 goals+ per game is usually held by world-class strikers such as Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Depay has registered such an output this season from the left wing. Could Depay’s eye-for-goal see him playing as a striker in the near future?
It would surprise me if Depay would develop into a traditional striker in the future. He did occasionally play in the centre of the pitch at youth level, although as an attacking midfielder or support striker rather than as an out an out forward, but he is arguably at his best when operating on the wing, where he gets much more time and space for his individual actions. He is very much a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, although he is obviously not at his level just yet, who would rather cut in from the wing than start his actions from the centre of the pitch.
“There’s so much more to Depay than just speed and a powerful shot. He is physically strong, has a superb cross, close control and has an eye for the pass as well, illustrated by the 39 chances he has created so far in 2014-15.”
Most fans already know Depay has excellent pace and a terrific right foot which he likes to use to shoot from distance. As a close follower of the Eredivisie, could you tell us something about Depay’s style of play that most fans in England wouldn’t know about?
There’s so much more to Depay than just speed and a powerful shot. He is physically strong, has a superb cross, close control and has an eye for the pass as well, illustrated by the 39 chances he has created so far in 2014-15. His partnership with left-back Jetro Willems has been phenomenal, with Depay often creating space for his fellow Netherlands international, who leads the Eredivisie assist charts. On top of all that, he is also always willing to track back and help out his defence, an area of his game he has hugely improved in since his first-team debut.
Many compare Depay to Arjen Robben as both are tricky attackers who like to cut in from the wing and score. Do scouts believe Depay has the potential to surpass Robben’s achievements?
There is definitely a belief among scouts across the globe that Depay is the next big thing from Netherlands. He is without a doubt Holland’s biggest attacking prospect, ahead of fellow young wingers like Ola John, Quincy Promes and Jean-Poel Boetius. It remains hard to say whether he can emulate Robben and be one of the best around in the game, but he certainly has the potential to go very far.
“If Van Gaal stays at United, I would say they are the favourites to land him, but Spurs cannot be ruled out.”
Reports in the media claim that Louis van Gaal instructed Depay to stay another year at PSV after the World Cup. Are these reports correct? Could you comment on van Gaal’s and Depay’s relationship?
Van Gaal will always be a special coach for Depay. He is the one who gave him a chance with the national team and then took him to the World Cup. The young winger really made a name for himself in front of a bigger audience in Brazil – and the PSV man will not forget Van Gaal’s role in his development.
The United boss felt Depay still had plenty to learn in the Eredivisie after just one season as an undisputed starter at PSV and advised him to stay put for another year in order to be guaranteed regular first-team action, which is absolutely crucial for a player his age. That one additional season in Holland has done Depay a world of good and he is now without a doubt ready for the next step in his career come June.
Depay has been quoted saying he is happy at PSV and wants to help the club win the Eredivisie. As PSV currently are positioned to do just that, would Depay be interested in a move to a club such as Manchester United in the summer? What fee would PSV demand for the player?
Depay signed a new deal with PSV until June 2018 about six months ago, but staying for an additional season once the 2014-15 campaign comes to an end is out of the question. He has said more than once that he wanted to guide PSV to the Eredivisie title this season and then move on to a bigger league. PSV have already admitted that it will be impossible to hold on to the attacker and he will definitely be on the move at the end of the season. He will not leave the club on the cheap, though. PSV turned down a €20 million offer for Depay last year and an offer in the area of €25-30m will be needed to lure him away from Eindhoven.
If you had to bet which club Depay would be playing for in the upcoming season, who would it be and why?
At this stage, it appears to be a race between Manchester United and Tottenham. They have both been keeping a close eye on him this year and the Premier League would suit Depay. If Van Gaal stays at United, I would say they are the favourites to land him, but Spurs cannot be ruled out. Fellow Eredivisie graduates such as Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Nacer Chadli have done well at White Hart Lane and Depay could flourish there, too. It would be hard for him to turn down United, though.
Juventus are also interested in signing him, but Eljero Elia’s (a close friend to Depay) bad experience at the Serie A champions means he is unlikely to make the move to Turin. Southampton, meanwhile, want him as well, but Depay might be a bridge too far for the Saints.