Memphis Depay will be the main man for the Netherlands at Euro 2020 and they will look to him to lead with his experience and quality on and off the pitch.
For a casual observer, a quick glance at the Dutch squad might reveal fewer familiar faces than one would expect from one of football’s traditional powerhouses. Then again, this is the nation’s first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup and a lot has changed since then.
The Netherlands’ squad back in 2014 included names like Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, Nigel de Jong and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. They were household names and each with over 60 international caps at the time. Sneijder and Kuyt would breach 100 at the tournament.
That is something they are lacking this time around. It’s not just the big names, but big experience too.
For many players, this will be their first tournament, meaning those who have been there before may need to show the way.
It seems bizarre to even think that the Netherlands have gone seven years without a major tournament, but so it is. Depay, Giorginio Wijnaldum and Daley Blind are three of the survivors from that 2014 squad and the only ones in the current crop with over 60 caps.
While a lot will be expected of Frenkie de Jong creatively, the Dutch have few other obvious stars to turn to and that’s where Depay comes in.
The delay of the tournament has been a blessing for Depay – and perhaps his country – in that it has allowed him to fully recover from a serious injury. On the other hand, it has robbed them of another key player in Virgil van Dijk.
The 27-year-old Depay is in his peak years, coming off a great campaign, and has the right blend of quality and experience for this to be his moment. He knows what is expected and he knows how to produce it.
After soaring to prominence with PSV, Depay had a mixed spell with Manchester United before joining Lyon, where he has shone. This season he scored 22 goals in 40 games, playing more often now as a centre-forward.
With no Robben, no Sneijder, no Huntelaar and no Kuyt, this new generation will look to Depay to step up when the going gets tough. If the Dutch are to have a successful tournament, he will need to be on form.
In Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia, the Netherlands arguably find themselves in one of the easier groups at the tournament on paper. This could give Depay a chance to bag a few goals and grow his confidence early on. From there, who knows…