Frank de Boer is hopeful Memphis Depay’s transfer to Barcelona becoming official will clear his head and allow the forward to help drive the Netherlands to Euro 2020 triumph.
Depay will move to Barcelona as a free agent when his contract with Lyon expires at the end of the month, it was announced on Saturday. His form has been uneven in the Netherlands’ opening two wins at the tournament but he impressed in the 2-0 victory against Austria on Thursday, scoring a penalty before helping create the second.
“We are all looking for an improvement in him,” said De Boer. “And I think, yes, it is a relief that he can concentrate [following the transfer news] as it can take part of your ideas in your head – the distraction of the transfer to Barcelona. So it might give him something extra to perform at the highest level.”
Depay has faced scrutiny in his home country for his displays and the head coach insists the player is his own fiercest critic. “Memphis is the first person to criticise his own game and say I can do better than what I have shown so far,” he said. “And I’m also sure that he’s not becoming another player or person when he receives this type of criticism as he’s really self-confident, and knows exactly what he wants on the pitch. This is his strength, his quality: you don’t upset him that easily.
“He knows perfectly well whether he played well or not. So let’s hope that as well for us, the Netherlands, for football itself, he can reach the level that we have in mind [for him] but still he is really important for us.”
“In [some] eyes maybe he has performed a little bit less than he could have but he also scored a penalty, [and contributed in other ways], so we are content with him,” De Boer added. “But we need Memphis at his best level to help us to reach as far as possible in the tournament. We are full of confidence that he can. As I said: he is a confident player, he knows what he wants. That’s the reason why he is a special player for us.”
De Boer is expected to make a couple of changes to his team for the game against North Macedonia in Amsterdam on Monday, with his side guaranteed top spot in Group C. While this means they face one of the third-place nations, Ruud van Nistelrooy, an assistant coach within the Netherlands setup, has warned the squad against complacency.
The former Manchester United striker was a member of the Euro 2008 squad who also won their opening two matches before being eliminated by Russia in the first knockout round.
De Boer said: “At the end of a meeting he [Van Nistelrooy] told them: ‘Now is the moment that you need to have the focus, that you do not give away too much. That you need to stay strong and maintain focus.’ He had the same experience and in these type of moments you hope he stands up [to speak] and this is what he did.
“This is really important that the players can hear from a person who went through a similar situation and who they look up to.”