There are not many youngsters in European football who have attracted as much attention as Memphis Depay this season. Manchester United are just one club to have registered their interest in the PSV Eindhoven winger after his dazzling performances in the Eredivisie over the past few months, and there was much focus on the 21-year-old ahead of Netherlands ' vital Euro 2016 qualifier with Turkey.
Following Czech Republic's draw with Latvia and Iceland's win in Kazakhstan earlier in the day, Guus Hiddink's side sat third in the table going into Saturday night's fixture. Already six points behind the top two, this was a must-win game for the Dutch. Could Depay handle the occasion and impress on such a stage?
|DEPAY'S SEASON SO FAR|
Depay has had a superb campaign so far, netting 17 goals in 24 Eredivisie games and a further six in nine Europa League appearances. That is a tally a centre-forward would be proud of, so it is even more commendable that Depay has reached such figures playing wide on the left.
Having said that, it is difficult to pin a single position on the 21-year-old. Depay loves to cut inside onto his favourite right foot, curling crosses to the back post or taking shots at goal. He often dribbles infield too, and is happy to drop back and collect the ball in deep areas.
The winger has been a key member of Phillip Cocu's PSV side, who are currently eight points clear of Ajax at the top of the table. In fact, Depay has been so good that even his manager does not expect him to remain at the club beyond the end of the season.
"[The interest in him is] unfortunate", he told Russia's Sport Express. "But on the other hand, we must as a club be proud because we have trained him.
"At some point, it becomes clear that he is ready for the next step. And yes, I think he's going to leave PSV after this season.
"Can he be as good as Arjen Robben? I think so.
"They are different players, but they are both fast and have a good shot. And both always have the urge to learn."
|PERFORMANCE AGAINST TURKEY|
With Robben missing through injury, Depay was given the chance to show whether comparisons with the Bayern Munich winger were accurate or premature. Robben's absence also meant that Depay was the man the Dutch would look to to provide spark and creativity from out wide.
The right-footed winger began the game well, immediately demonstrating his dribbling abilities as he repeatedly ran at Turkey right-back Gökhan Gönül. He looked extremely lively in the opening stages, showcasing a range of tricks, flicks and dummies, much to the enjoyment of the Amsterdam public.
Depay also displayed his penchant for moving infield, which in turn allowed Daley Blind to overlap from full-back. This is an arrangement that has worked extremely well for PSV this term, with left-back Jetro Willems bombing down the flank and benefiting from the space vacated when Depay drifts inside.
Such movement resulted in a couple of decent first-half efforts on goal, both of which were on target. His pace - both with and without the ball - clearly terrified the Turkish backline, who repeatedly dropped off, afraid to make a challenge.
Netherlands would pay for their missed chances in the 37th minute, though, Burak Yilmaz giving the visitors the lead.
Hiddink's charges huffed and puffed in the second period, but were unable to find a way past their resolute opponents until deep into injury time, when Wesley Sneijder's shot deflected into the back of the net.
Depay faded somewhat after the interval, failing to get on the ball as much as he would have liked. When he was in possession, he occasionally made some bad choices, either holding onto it for too long or playing the wrong pass.
He had a great opportunity to leave the Amsterdam ArenA the matchwinner when the ball fell to him 20 yards from goal just seconds after Sneijder's leveller. It was a difficult chance, and he could not quite get the connection on the half-volley that he would have wanted.
Given his first-half contributions, this should go down as a positive display. Depay may not have dominated the game or stamped his influence on it, but he certainly showed flashes of his extraordinary talent.
|WHAT HE'D BRING TO MANCHESTER UNITED|
Earlier in March, Goal revealed that Depay has told Manchester United that he wants to reunite with former Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal and join the club in the summer. Tottenham and Liverpool are also keen on Depay, but the £22m-rated winger favours a move to Old Trafford as all parties continue to negotiate.
There was enough evidence on display tonight to suggest that the PSV youth product would be a welcome addition to the squad.
Despite a recent upturn in form, United have come in for a fair amount of criticism this season. Their football has been labelled as slow and ponderous, adjectives that certainly cannot be used to describe Depay.
The Dutchman has the ability to quicken the tempo in an instant, and his runs would provide a good outlet for the passes of technical central players such as Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Juan Mata. His goalscoring record is a major plus point too, with most wingers nowhere near as efficient in front of goal.
He would bring much-needed speed to United's line-up, adding verve, imagination and vibrancy in the final third. Although his decision-making can occasionally let him down, Van Gaal would surely appreciate the directness and unpredictability he would add.
Memphis Depay is not just one of the hottest properties in Europe, but also a player who would provide exactly what Manchester United need.