Manchester United’s left winger, Memphis Depay, started his road to professional football at Sparta Rotterdam, where his attitude and temperament were seen as a huge problem.
Whilst Depay was a member of Sparta’s youth set up, Richard Grootscholten played a key role in helping young talents reach their full potential.
Speaking to ESPN FC, Grootscholten has revealed that bringing Memphis Depay into professional football was not an easy task:
You worked with a young Depay as he made his way through the ranks at Sparta, so are the stories that he was a tough kid to control accurate?
Very much so. Memphis did not have the easiest of backgrounds with his family and that moulded his personality to an extent.”
“Of course, we could see he had unbelievable talent and that made the trouble he was causing worthwhile, but we did reach a point when people at Sparta were saying: “Can we do this? We cannot put up with this guy’s attitude.”
So what was the problem with Depay? Give us some examples.
“He wanted to be the king of the street, he wanted to be the main man and he was not happy taking instructions. There were big problems with his coaches. Many did not know what to do with him.”
“He was a boy who wanted to defend himself, someone who wanted to fight against what he was being told. He didn’t want to show his weaknesses to anyone. That is tough when you are a coach — and the other kids cannot be allowed to think this is acceptable.”
“There is always a limit to how much can be tolerated, however much talent someone might have.”
Did you always believe he had the ability to become a star?
“We moved him up an age group when he was 11 because he was so mature for his age and better than the boys he was playing with.”
“He was unbelievably confident in himself, but we always asked: “What can we do with this guy?” We all had so many discussions. In the end, he went to PSV Eindhoven and they had a guy who looked after him and became a friend for him to lean on.”
“Maybe that is what he needed, and of course I am happy for him that he has achieved so much in his career.”
Do you feel personal pride when a young player you have worked with moves to a club like Manchester United?
“I am happy for them, of course, but in the end, it comes down to the player making the most of the opportunities we give them. Someone like me can help players at the start of their careers, but they have to make the most of their abilities.”
Grootscholten also answered questions on fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal, and what he’s like away from match day:
You worked with Louis van Gaal on Dutch youth development programmes, so how would you describe the real man behind the image we see on television?
“He is a very serious man when he talks about football. He is more of a school teacher than a coach and he expects high standards.”
“Van Gaal is strict with his players and likes to be in control, but you listen to those who have worked under him and they all speak very highly of him.”
“He is a very good guy, a fun guy to be around and I hope that if he does finish at Manchester United when his current contract ends, Dutch football finds a way of keeping him involved in some way. Van Gaal is an inspirational figure for everyone.”
Memphis Depay has been a key feature in Manchester United’s 2015/16 campaign and hasn’t displayed any kind off ill mannered temperament on or off of the field.
His next test, in a United shirt, comes against Everton, next weekend.