Lazio youngster Ravel Morrison rolled around in agony after a heavy challenge from Stefano Giacomelli, it was yet another setback for the young prodigy who was being touted as the new Gazza by the Italian press in recent weeks. At the same time World cup winner, Bastian Schweinsteiger was revealing his shock at the “unbelievable talent” the once troublesome Dutch prodigy Memphis Depay possessed who France Football had just named the best young player in the world. This is the story of the 2 young prodigies who had a somewhat similar start to their careers in professional football but a different coming of age.
Introduction into football
In 1999, as Memphis Depay watched Feyernoord lift the Eredivisie title he told his grandfather Kees, “one day you will be able to watch me play football on TV, too!”. This same message is muttered in homes across the globe but very few would have believed it like Depay and his grandfather. His grandfather introduced Depay to competitive football with Dutch amateur side VV Moordrecht and from an early age Depay’s confidence shown on the pitch. He was tipped for big things ever since he first stepped on the pitch. He had a great eye for goal and possessed technique, trickery and flair which far surpassed his peers. As Ton Redegeld, the club’s chairman at the time stated
“he was fast, agile and strong and I thought, It’s not going to be long before he is out of here…In matches where we scored seven goals he would get five of them and set up the other two. And I’m not exaggerating”
Just a few miles away another young prodigy was also raising similar intrigue from coaches and scouts alike in Manchester, young Ravel Morrison. Phil Brogan, a scout for Manchester United was running a football camp on behalf of the club and he saw within a few sessions the extraordinary talent of the then 8-year-old Ravel Morrison. He was in awe of the confidence, flair and technique that he displayed so much so that he“…genuinely believe(d) he could become good enough to play for any team in the world, including Barcelona.” Not many current top class players can boast such reviews from the age of 8 years old from professional scouts so this just emphasises that this was not just a typical talented young player we are talking about but a future superstar.
On and off field problems
Although Memphis Depay and Ravel Morrison were raising positive attention of professional scouts and coaches alike in their local area there were also raising negative attention on and off the pitch as well. Both youngsters were troublesome however their bad behaviour was a consequence of different internal and external issues.
When it came to Memphis Depay he was abandoned by his biological father at the age 4 and also by his mother’ abusive boyfriend who came after all before the age of 10, this lead to Memphis growing up with a real lack of trust in father figures. He vowed from then he would not want anything to do with his biological father and till this date prefers to be addressed only by his first name. His former youth coach, Kevin Valkenburg described Memphis Depay as being unapproachable. He stated that Memphis “… had behavioural problems. Usually I’ll get through with that kind of boy but he was difficult to help, as if there was a wall around him.” Memphis never lacked confidence and always had boundless energy on the pitch but also off it, there was no off switch and his former teachers talked about his lack of discipline and general disobedience in a class room environment. Former scout Henk Grim gave his assessment
“I watched the young Memphis Depay often enough. I was doing scouting work on him when he was playing in the Under-16 side for PSV Eindhoven, and there was this game against FC Twente. I always work with a list of five specific qualities: skills, tactics, physique, attitude, personality. I did not get any higher with my average ratings than 5.6 out of 10. And you know what brought the rating down most of all? The rating for his personality. It is only because of the fact that I could not go any lower than zero out of 10, otherwise I would have rated him well below that. It was absolutely disgusting, the foul language that boy used towards his fellow players and towards people in the crowd”
he stated. A common theme that was becoming potentially detrimental to his progression and development as a player at this period in his life.
On the other side the same message was being echoed about Ravel Morrison, Phil Brogan who scouted and coached Ravel felt he was lacking in direction and he mentioned that “it’s true there were some problems with him at the time, but I always thought he was a great kid who just needed guidance.” Like many other young footballers late night partying, bad language, binge drinking or even the occasional disobedience is nothing new however when it came to Ravel Morrison this was normal weekend. Ravel Morrison’s misconduct and misbehaviour ranged from poor timekeeping, absenteeism, driving without a license, on and off field fights, criminal and assault charges among other things. The most high-profile of his misbehaviour was when he was found guilty of witness intimidation, he was accused of harassing a victim of a mugging by his peers and threatening him to drop the charges. During which he stated “You don’t know what I’m capable of,” a somewhat ironic statement. Ravel Morrison has also been charged with criminal damage and homophobic threat and also has been accused of assaults on different occasions however he was cleared from the latter. Ravel Morrison main issue even to this day has always been the people he surrounded himself with along with his impulsive behaviour which worked to his benefit on the pitch but not so off it. As Phil Brogan states
“he developed well and was training with the first team at 15, but we knew there were issues. United tried everything they could to help him, but sometimes you can fall in with the wrong crowd.”...
Getty images: Michael Regan