Memphis Depay: Man Utd forward 'can become a world great'
Last updated on .From the section European Football
"It is not always sunshine," was Arjen Robben's gentle warning to Memphis Depay regarding life in the Premier League with Manchester United.
The Netherlands captain was reacting to recent criticism of his compatriot from both club manager Louis van Gaal and national team coach Danny Blind, which resulted in his omission from both teams.
The 31-year-old himself experienced the highs and lows of being a precocious talent in the English top flight.
At the age of 22, the coveted winger joined Chelsea from PSV Eindhoven - and in three years won two league titles, an FA Cup and three League Cups. He was a huge success at Stamford Bridge, however he also garnered the reputation for being a diver, an accusation that resurfaced at the 2014 World Cup.
Depay also arrived in England from PSV. United paid £31m for the 21-year-old, who had helped the Dutch giants win last season's Eredivisie, finishing as the league's top scorer. But he also came with the 'baggage' of a questionable attitude...
'Dressed like a Peruvian panpipe player'
This reported attitude problem, in part, led to Van Gaal dropping him in October, while Blind initially left the forward out of the Netherlands squad in November stating that he was not yet a "team player".
And somewhat curiously, Depay's fashion sense was recently derided by former Ajax coach Co Adriaanse, who said he dressed like a "Peruvian panpipe player".
But would United fans care if their new signing dressed like Lady Gaga but helped deliver a 21st league title? Five goals in 16 appearances, the last of which came in the 2-1 win at Watford on Saturday, is good return so far with his club in contention for honours both domestically and in Europe.
PSV's academy director Art Langeler has closely watched Depay's development. When asked whether the criticism of the young Dutchman was fair, his response was an emphatic "no".
"He's a focused player and does everything for his career," the 45-year-old told BBC Sport. "The image portrayed of him is not the real image of Memphis.
"He's still young, so he sometimes plays well and sometimes has difficulties.
"He's grown to a good level in Holland, but not the level of required at United, so he has to adjust to that and living in England."
|Five most expensive Dutch transfers|
|Memphis Depay||PSV to Man Utd £31m|
|Luis Suarez||Ajax to Liverpool £22.7m|
|Ruud van Nistelrooy||PSV to Man Utd £19m|
|Wesley Sneijder||Ajax to Real Madrid £18.49m|
|Klaas-Jan Huntelaar||Ajax to Real Madrid £17m|
'One of the biggest talents'
Former PEC Zwolle manager Langeler was headhunted by PSV almost two-and-a-half years ago to help the club realise its new philosophy of getting youth players ready for senior level at a young age.
It is a four-year plan that involves coach Philip Cocu, director of football Marcel Brands and general manager Toon Gerbrands.
Current midfielder Jorrit Hendrix, 20, who is set to line up against United on Wednesday, is another academy graduate touted for greater things, while Jurgen Locadia, Jordy de Wijs, Rai Vloet, Joshua Brenet were all part of the squad that defeated United 2-1 in September.
Langeler said the club will let players go if they feel they are ready, not matter what their age - and he says Depay was right to leave the nest.
"He's one of the biggest talents I've seen. I don't think he left PSV too early," the youth coach added.
"The fact he's currently playing in one of the biggest teams at the age of 21 says it all.
"In Holland he was ready. In England he's currently a good player with difficulties, but if he can grow there then he will be one of the world's great players."