FC Barcelona

Memphis Depay shows he's not daunted by challenge of replacing Lionel Messi

Craig Vickers
Memphis Depay celebrates after his second goal of the campaign
Memphis Depay celebrates after his second goal of the campaign / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
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Memphis Depay was barely in the door at Barcelona when the first whispers surrounding Lionel Messi's exit began. When it was announced officially at the start of August, the Dutchman could barely hide his emotions, taking to Twitter to express his heartbreak at the icon's departure.

Messi was undeniably a huge factor in Depay's decision to join Barcelona, with the Argentine's ability to single-handedly drag his team to silverware, but Depay now stands to benefit from the legend's departure. There are few players in world football who boast the self-confidence of the Dutch forward.

As he rifled Barca ahead in the first half against Getafe on Sunday, Depay took a moment after he finished celebrating with his teammates to soak it all in. Ramping up the Camp Nou crowd - sparse given the COVID-19 restrictions - they responded by chanting his name. It's an ovation which was usually reserved for Messi.

Memphis Depay
Depay receives an ovation from the Camp Nou crowd / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It was difficult not to contrast their adulation towards Depay to the reception Antoine Griezmann received for misplacing a pass in the first half, with the Frenchman retreating into his shell after being jeered by the Camp Nou faithful for the remainder of the contest.

Griezmann has never truly been welcomed by the Barcelona faithful since he arrived in 2019. He has operated in Messi's shadow, a cog in the Barca machine whose absence on ocassion was never keenly felt due to the Argentine's brilliance. Depay's Barcelona chapter looks set to be different.

The Dutchman boasts an arrogance which Barcelona as a club require in the absence of their greatest servant. He operates with ice in his veins, which was encapsulated perfectly in his winning goal. Collecting a through pass from Frenkie de Jong, Depay still had work to do as Getafe's defenders surrounded him in the penalty area. Slowing the process down, he shimmied the ball back onto his right foot before wrong-footing the Getafe goalkeeper and firing low into the bottom corner.

It follows on from his exquisite finish to salvage a point for Barcelona at the San Mames against Athletic Club last weekend. The low socks, the tattoos, the poise in which he celebrates goals; he often operates as though unaware of the size of the club he's representing.

Truth be told, Depay's career trajectory has been building towards this moment. He has been hardened by his experience at Manchester United, a club similar in stature to Barcelona. "I realised [at United] that I had to start over and show everyone that I could be one of the best," Depay recently reflected on his experience in England.

At Lyon, he netted 63 times in 139 appearances, which is just under a goal every two games in France. He thrives on the pressure of being the go-to man, as his outings in a Netherlands shirt also attest to.

Memphis Depay
Memphis Depay celebrates his goal / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The shadow of Messi still looms large over the Camp Nou. The financial situation is perilous. But the Barca faithful can rest easy in the knowledge they have a genuine, A-grade superstar in their attacking ranks.

He may have never played alongside Messi, but his moments of brilliance will briefly allow Barcelona to remember there's life after the great one.

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