New Barcelona signing Memphis Depay is relishing the chance to link up with Lionel Messi, who he believes showed at the Copa America why he is still the world’s best player.
Netherlands international Depay joined Barca as a free agent when his Lyon contract expired on July 1 and was officially unveiled at Camp Nou on Thursday.
While the 27-year-old is excited to begin a new chapter in his career at Barca, club legend Messi’s future is less clear as he has yet to sign a new deal and is now a free agent.
But the six-time Ballon d’Or winner is reportedly close to agreeing a long-term contract with the Spanish giants that will keep him tied down to the club until 2026.
Messi is currently on an extended break after inspiring Argentina to their first Copa America crown since 1993 earlier this month.
He scored four goals and provided five assists to win the Golden Boot and his maiden piece of silverware while representing his country at senior level.
Depay is hopeful Messi will soon put pen to paper so he can fulfil a dream of playing alongside the superstar forward.
“He is a legend and the best player in the world,” Depay said at his unveiling. “Did you see what he did in the Copa America?
“I really want to play with Leo. His qualities with the ball are undeniable. As long as I make the runs, I know the ball will come. I am a great fan of his.
“Yesterday I had a tour of the museum and saw all of the Ballon d’Or awards he has won. He probably has another one coming, too. It’s going to be a dream for me.”
After a short break following the Netherlands’ last-16 exit to the Czech Republic at Euro 2020 last month, Depay arrived in Catalonia on Monday to begin pre-season training.
The Dutchman got his career back on track at Lyon following a disappointing spell with Manchester United, scoring 76 goals in 178 appearances for the Ligue 1 side.
He enjoyed an impressive final season in the French top flight with 20 goals, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27).
The former PSV youth product’s 12 assists and 94 chances created, meanwhile, were more than any other player managed in Ligue 1 in 2020-21.
After months of drawn-out speculation, Depay is pleased to have finally completed a switch to Barcelona this month.
“It’s an honour to be here, a dream come true,” he said. “Since I was little I dreamed of it. The conversations have been long, but the will has always been there.
“At last I am here. Everyone who is present knows the importance of the club around the world, of how great it is and the impact it has.
“At 27 years of age achieving my dream is surprising and fantastic. I really want to start playing.
“The team is ready for the new season, we are rested and the time has come to go back to work and pick up trophies.”
Koeman previously managed Depay while in charge of the Netherlands, but the former Man Utd attacker insists his compatriot was not a deciding factor in leaving Lyon for Barca.
“I would have come even if he was not here because you don’t say no to Barca,” he said. “I would have come anyway, but it is also true that the coach has had a great impact.
“I know him well. He played me as a forward with the national team. He has made me feel comfortable because I started playing better.”
Depay is one of three free agents to have joined the cash-strapped Catalans this window, along with former Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.
Asked if he is concerned by Barca’s financial problems, which have not been helped by the coronavirus pandemic, Depay said: “No. I am focused only on the game.
“I cannot focus on that. The business part is something the president [Joan Laporta] and the board will take care of. When fans are back in the stadium the situation will improve.”