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Memphis joins Atlético from Barcelona; Carrasco could head to Catalonia next

The Dutch star will take Atlético’s vacated #9 shirt.

Holland v USA -World Cup Photo by Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid have confirmed the signing of longtime Netherlands international Memphis from FC Barcelona.

Memphis had been Atlético’s top choice to take João Félix’s place in the squad, and the club stepped up its efforts to get him after João completed a loan move to Chelsea earlier this month. He will be the fourth Dutchman to play for Atleti’s men’s team, and the first since John Heitinga controversially left for Everton in 2009.

Atlético will pay Barcelona a small transfer fee to conclude this latest operation between the two clubs. But multiple reports this week, later confirmed by Barcelona, have said the Catalan club successfully negotiated a right of first refusal on winger Yannick Carrasco as part of the deal (though Atlético have denied this is part of the package).

The right of first refusal means Barça have the option to acquire Carrasco for a fee between €15 million and €20 million over the summer, even if Atleti negotiate the 29-year-old’s sale to another club for a larger fee.

(It is thought that Atleti do not want to sell Carrasco this month but are comfortable with moving him this summer, given the player’s contract expires in 2024 and Samuel Lino has starred on loan at Valencia.)

What Atlético can expect from Memphis

“Memphis Depay is a magnificent player with a lot of quality,” Álvaro Morata said after Atlético beat Levante in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. “We await him with open arms.”

After passing a physical, Memphis trained with his teammates for the first time on Thursday, even though the clubs had yet to announce the deal.

Memphis is unlikely to play in Saturday’s home game against Real Valladolid but could be in the squad to face Real Madrid, Atlético’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal opponent. But whenever he does debut, Diego Simeone will hope his new number 9 can help put away some of the chances Atleti’s other forwards have been missing this year.

However, that may be easier said than done.

Memphis scored eight non-penalty goals in 1,851 minutes for a transitioning Barcelona team in LaLiga last year and has only two league games to his name this year, with one further appearance in the UEFA Champions League and another in the domestic cup. And Atlético will need their new star forward to hit the ground running even when he may not be match fit.

At his best, Memphis is a shot- and goal-creating monster, and a gamble certainly worth taking for less than €5 million. He generated more than five shot-creating actions per 90 minutes in 2020/21 (his final season at Lyon). Last year, only Ousmane Dembélé exceeded his 3.99 SCA per 90 among Barça players who registered more than 1,000 minutes in LaLiga.

But like Ángel Correa and former Barcelona teammate Antoine Griezmann, Memphis is not a pure 9, though he is capable of playing across a forward line and had a 20-goal season as recently as 2021. And it is perhaps an indictment of Atlético’s forwards that Memphis’s 19% shooting rate (13 goals from 67 shot attempts) would be the highest such rate among Simeone’s strikers since the beginning of last season.

In short, Memphis is a good finisher with desirable mobility and versatility — but there’s a chance he may not be what the Rojiblancos need. Time will tell.