La renaissance de Memphis Depay



Dix-huit mois après son passage à Old Trafford qui s’est mal terminé, l’attaquant néerlandais de l’OL à un gros coup à jouer mercredi soir à Manchester en Ligue des champions.

Mercredi soir, Memphis Depay sera de retour sur le terrain de Manchester d’où il est parti tête basse voilà 18 mois. Le jeune homme de 24 ans a bien changé depuis un an et demi.

Depay a passé autant de temps à Lyon – une saison et demie – qu’à Manchester United… mais c’est là que s’arrêtent les similitudes entre ces deux périodes de sa carrière. En France, il a passé deux fois plus de temps sur le terrain et a inscrit quatre fois plus de buts. Mais au-delà des chiffres, sa réputation s’est améliorée.

Au fur et à mesure qu’une génération de stars néerlandaises s’éteint, Depay incarne l’espoir de la prochaine génération, et il est devenu le principal avant-centre de son pays. Début septembre, au même moment où Wesley Sneijder annonçait sa retraite internationale, Depay se fit remarquer en inscrivant un doublé contre le Pérou. Il a inscrit 22 buts avec Lyon la saison dernière – en grande partie dans un rôle offensif – alliant des tirs longue distance et des buts de renard des surfaces.

LA GALÈRE À MANCHESTER

Tout cela semble bien loin de l’ailier timide qui évoluait à Manchester United… Sans vouloir s’attarder sur la misère qui pesait sur les épaules de Depay à Old Trafford, cela vaut la peine de revenir sur son passage dans le nord de l’Angleterre, ne serait-ce que pour souligner à quel point les choses se sont inversées de façon spectaculaire depuis.

Il est arrivé à United à l’été 2015 pour un transfert d’un montant de 35 millions d’Euros en provenance du PSV Eindhoven, une somme impressionnante à l’époque. Les signes inquiétants sont apparus dès ses débuts, après quoi son manager Louis van Gaal a qualifié sa prestation de « trop enthousiaste… trop passionnée ». Malgré un doublé contre Bruges en barrages de la Ligue des champions peu de temps après, les choses se sont vite détériorées.

L’éclaircie du bon début de saison de Depay n’a cessé de s’assombrir. À la fin, ses apparitions se déroulaient surtout sur le banc et n’avaient guère d’effet.

Après l’arrivée de José Mourinho sur le banc, le Néerlandais a fait un total de huit apparitions, dont une dans le onze de départ, ce qui lui a valu de se faire remarquer de l’autre côté de la Manche.

Qu’est-ce qui a bien pu se passer à Manchester pour un joueur aussi talentueux ? Sur le papier, le coup était parfait : c’était un jeune ailier enthousiasmant qui arrivait dans un club où le rôle des ailiers est important ; c’était une star en devenir qui allait jouer pour un entraîneur qui avait fait briller des joueurs néerlandais.

Bien sûr, les nouvelles recrues ont toujours tendance à être plus belles sur le papier que sur l’herbe. Le jeu spontané de Depay s’est révélé inadapté à la fois à la stratégie de Van Gaal, basé sur la possession de balle, et à celui de Mourinho, basé sur le positionnement.

PLUS MODESTE

Pas plus tard que ce mois-ci, son ancien capitaine Wayne Rooney se souvient du moment où il a perdu de vue Depay. « Il a joué contre Stoke et a raté un but, alors Van Gaal l’a fait jouer avec la réserve le lendemain », se souvient Rooney. « Je l’ai dit : « Ecoute, c’est un peu difficile[pour toi]. Mais ne viens pas avec tes fantaisies. Et il s’est présenté au match pour jouer avec la réserve dans sa Rolls-Royce, vêtu d’une veste en cuir et d’un chapeau de cow-boy. Et là je me suis dit : « Quel est l’intérêt ? »

Après tout, l’accusation du joueur  » bling-bling » tend à viser de manière disproportionnée un certain type de footballeur. Quoi qu’il en soit, avec le recul, Depay a fait preuve de bonté.

Pour sa défense, Depay s’est retrouvé mystérieusement émoussé dans un Old Trafford post-Ferguson qui a vu s’éteindre de très bons joueurs : Wilfried Zaha et Angel Di Maria sont arrivés l’été précédent ; Henrikh Mkhitaryan l’été suivant.

L’histoire de ces trois joueurs, avec Depay, n’est pas forcément de bon augure pour Alexis Sanchez ou Anthony Martial, deux autres joueurs qui connaissent actuellement ce que l’on pourrait qualifier de vacillement. Il y a un dénominateur commun et il est juste de dire que ces joueurs ne sont pas mis dans les meilleures conditions.

En ce qui concerne Depay, il est probable aussi qu’il y a eu une sorte de choc des cultures à l’entraînement. Comme l’a dit Arsène Wenger : « Pour les Anglais, le sport est un combat. Ils ne peuvent pas aller au combat sans un général. Pour les Français, le football est une forme d’expression collective. » Après avoir mixé les deux, il semble que la France soit un peu plus compatible avec le style de jeu instinctif de Depay.

Malgré cette dure épreuve, l’envie de Depay de montrer ses qualités n’a pas faibli. « J’aimerais aller plus haut, a-t-il dit au début du mois de septembre. « Je suis reconnaissant de la façon dont Lyon m’a traité et continue de me traiter, et je suis également heureux de continuer à jouer au football ici », a déclaré l’attaquant de l’OL. Mais à mon avis, je suis prêt à faire un pas de plus. »

Pour l’instant, il devra se contenter de jouer contre les super clubs européens plutôt que pour eux, car Lyon revient en milieu de semaine dans l’élite. Mais Depay serait sage de savoir où il est le plus utile. Pour l’instant, il est bon pour Lyon et Lyon est bon pour lui – et comme il le sait, ça ne marche pas toujours comme ça.

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