Memphis Depay‘s mentor has been discussing the Manchester United winger’s tough upbringing, how it ‘moulded his personality’ and says his talent was obvious from an early age.
Richard Grootscholten was a key part in the football upbringing of both Memphis and Holland teammate Kevin Strootman at Sparta Rotterdam. Memphis spent three years at Sparta between 2003 and 2006 where behavioural issues had to be consistently dealt with. Grootscholten says it was hard and at times the club questioned whether they could keep trying to fix Memphis’ attitude.
Speaking to ESPN, Grootscholten said: “Memphis did not have the easiest of backgrounds with his family and that moulded his personality to an extent.”
His father left him, according to the player himself, at a young age and Grootscholten believes it is down to this that stemmed Memphis’ anger.
He added: “Of course, we could see he had unbelievable talent and that made the trouble he was causing worthwhile, but we did reach a point when people at Sparta were saying: ‘Can we do this? We cannot put up with this guy’s attitude.
“He wanted to be the king of the street, he wanted to be the main man and he was not happy taking instructions. There were big problems with his coaches.
“Many did not know what to do with him. He was a boy who wanted to defend himself, someone who wanted to fight against what he was being told. He didn’t want to show his weaknesses to anyone. That is tough when you are a coach — and the other kids cannot be allowed to think this is acceptable. There is always a limit to how much can be tolerated, however much talent someone might have.”
Even then, despite all the trouble he caused, coaches like Grootscholten looked onto a player with incredible talent, that they spotted instantly.
He recalled: “We moved him up an age group when he was 11 because he was so mature for his age and better than the boys he was playing with. He was unbelievably confident in himself, but we always asked: ‘What can we do with this guy?’
“We all had so many discussions. In the end, he went to PSV Eindhoven and they had a guy who looked after him and became a friend for him to lean on. Maybe that is what he needed, and of course I am happy for him that he has achieved so much in his career.”
Memphis has started his United career well, having agreed to join in May. Two goals against Club Brugge, two superb goals that he made out of nothing for himself, have been the highlight so far. He still has a lot to learn with selfishness, perhaps overeagerness, seeping through his performances from time to time but the raw talent that Grootscholten spoke about is clear to see already and under Louis van Gaal, hopefully Memphis will live up to his potential.