Memphis: "Agüero, Messi and I are different but we can play together"

NEWS

In an interview given to SPORT, Memphis opens up on his first week as a Barcelona player, the welcome he has received, the squad and his relationship with Ronald Koeman

| sport

Sergi Capdevila

It's been a whirlwind week for Memphis. Less than one week after signing his contract with FC Barcelona, he has already trained with the squad, played in his first match and got to know the club and his new team mates. Despite the initial shock, Memphis is enjoying his first days as a Barça player.

The Dutch forward said he was "blessed" to have this opportunity, and has a clear idea of what he hopes to achieve and what he can offer during his time at the club. In his promising debut, it was clear that Memphis is a special player. A 'rebel', the type of player that Barça fans are often drawn towards.

How do you feel after your first few days in Barcelona?

I feel great. I feel blessed to be here. The welcome I've received has been incredible. Obviously it's tiring having to give so many interviews and attend so many events, but I'm doing it all with enthusiasm and patience. I've enjoyed my first week and my first game [last weekend's friendly against Girona]. The plan was for me to only play 30 minutes, but I ended up playing more than 50.

What do you think of the city? Did you already know it before signing?

No, to be honest. I'd just read things about it. It's beautiful, the people are friendly, the restaurants [are amazing]. I was really excited to come and now I want to discover the city properly.

You're currently staying in a hotel, but do you know where you would like to live? Perhaps Frenkie [De Jong] has given you some advice?

I'm not sure yet. We're going to look for a good place where I can feel comfortable and happy.

¿Te animó a fichar, le has preguntado mucho sobre el Barça? Did he encourage you to sign? Did you ask him lots of things about Barça?

I didn't exactly bombard him with questions, but everything he's told me about the club has been positive. For me, the most important thing is the greatness of the club and its sporting project. To sign for a club like this, with such an illustrious history, is fantastic.

Talking of De Jong, what do you think about the way he is progressing? Do you think he is ready to be a leading player in the team?

I think he's one of the best midfielders in the world. He's gaining more and more experience and will continue to improve. I love training with him, and of course, he will be an important player for Barça this year.

You looked to be in good shape in your first game. Did you follow a specific fitness routine during your time off?

Not really. I needed to disconnect. I hadn't had any holidays in a long time due to Covid-19, so I decided to take a proper break this summer. Now I feel like my batteries are recharged and I'm ready to work hard. Maybe people didn't realise, but I felt tired in the game against Girona. My legs felt heavy. I tried to give it my all. I think that soon I'll reach peak fitness.

What objectives have you set yourself for the upcoming campaign, on both a personal and collective level?

I want to win trophies. That's why I came here. I'll try to do everything I can to help the team achieve these goals. That is my objective. Let's see what role I have. In any case, the most important thing is to work hard for the team and enjoy the journey.

How would you define yourself as a player? What can we expect from Memphis in Barça's system?

I always try to create danger and be direct. I like to find the shortest route to goal. I try to be creative. I love how Barça plays football, and I want to adapt to this system as soon as possible.

At Lyon you were the captain, and you had a huge influence on the way the team played. Will you play a different role at Barça?

I want to win trophies and help the team by scoring goals and laying on assists. I need to give everything I have for the team. I have my qualities, and I'm going to try and put them to good use. You can't compare Lyon and Barça. This is a new adventure for me. A new club, a new dressing room...it's something completely different.

Are you dreaming of playing alongside Leo Messi? How do you think you might link up in attack?

It would be amazing to play with him. I hope we'll have the chance to play together. He has some qualities that the team needs, and we'll need to build the side around him. There's so much talent in this group of players. Honestly, for me it would be amazing to play with Messi and win titles with him.

Might Barça fans be able to enjoy a Memphis - Agüero - Messi front line? Do you think you can play together?

There are lots of attackers in the squad, but I think we all offer something different. My skills and strong points are different to those of Agüero, for example, or any other attacker. I think that the three of us all bring something different to the table and we would be able to play together, but let's see what side the manager picks.

Have you heard anything from Messi since signing for Barça?

(laughs) No...I think he's still enjoying the Copa América win, which was an amazing achievement.

Phillip Cocu handed you your professional debut at PSV, Louis Van Gaal signed you for Manchester United and you played under Ronald Koeman for the Dutch national team, which is currently managed by Frank de Boer. Were you destined to play for Barça?

I know that all of these coaches have a history at Barça. Not anyone can play here, so I feel very happy for taking the decision, for the club and for everyone involved. They want to play in a way that pleases the fans, and I feel comfortable with this approach. The fans want to win, but they want to do so by playing good football.

How important has Ronald Koeman been in your career?

Very important. He's had a huge impact on me, in important years [in my development]. He was able to turn the Dutch national team around. He placed his trust in me and gave me confidence, and now he's wanted to sign me for this new adventure at Barcelona. Of course, he's had a big impact on my career.

How does the fact that Koeman is remaining in the dug out affect your situation?

Well, I know him and I know the way he trains, so it will be easier for me to adapt. I know what he expects of me [since] we've worked together for a long time. Of course, even with him in the dug out I know that it won't be easy, but of course I view it as a positive. It would have been different without him.

Some people view you as something of a 'rebel'. From an outsider's perspective, you can sometimes give off this impression. Do you think this is a wrong interpretation?

I think the term 'rebel' often has negative connotations, but it can sometimes be used for good things. Sometimes, if you are a rebel on the pitch it can bring something extra and you win the game. Luis Suárez won so many games and scored so many goals, and not because he's the sweetest, nicest person on the field. Maybe people look at me and think I'm a 'rebel', due to my appearance. When people meet me they see that I'm a normal guy, just like any other person. Perhaps I'm a bit different because of how I express myself, how I make music. Maybe I'm more misunderstood because of this. But I don't care if they call me a rebel. Some people may have a positive impression of me and others may not. Everyone is free to form their own opinion and impression.

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