Memphis Depay has confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in football by admitting he is on the verge of a dream move to Barcelona.
As Holland close in on the Euros knockout phase, the Manchester United flop could cap a memorable week by sealing a reunion with his former Dutch national team coach Ronald Koeman at the Nou Camp.
Depay, 27, is out of contract with French club Lyon next month and Barca believe they are down to the smallprint in finalising a deal.
Ahead of the Netherlands’ date with Austria at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena tonight, Depay said: “Everyone knows I have been linked with Barcelona in the last period and I want to play for Ronald Koeman.
“Let’s just wait, the news will come – but right now I am focused on the national team, which is very important.”
Depay’s international captain, Georginio Wijnaldum, snubbed Barca in favour of a big-money deal at Paris Saint-Germain last week.
But the ex-United striker’s focus is now on Holland’s safe passage through to the last 16 – a task probably made simpler by Austrian firebrand Marko Arnautovic’s one-match ban for insulting North Macedonia’s Leeds midfielder Ezgjan Alioski.
The former Stoke and West Ham forward, who now plays in China for Shanghai Port, had to be restrained by team-mate David Alaba after clinching Austria’s 3-1 win on Sunday.
Arnautovic, who is of Serbian heritage, appeared to make comments towards Alioski and Egzon Bejtulai, who are both of Albanbian descent, before taunting Macedonian fans.
Arnautovic later apologised for his outburst, posting on Instagram : “There were some heated words in the emotions of the game for which I would like to apologise – especially to my friends from North Macedonia and Albania.
“I would like to say one thing very clearly: I am not a racist. I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that.”
But UEFA appointed an ethics and discplinary investigator to examine the incident and Arnautovic was hit by a one-match suspension.
Meanwhile, defender Matthijs de Ligt returns to the Dutch defence after missing Sunday’s thrilling 3-2 win over Ukraine with a groin injury, and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg continues his fairytale international comeback at the age of 38.
Released by Everton at the end of last season, Stekelenburg – the oldest player in the tournament – played in the 2010 World Cup final but had not been called up by Holland since November 2016.
But he returned to the squad in March and he admitted: “If someone said before this season that I would be the first choice goalkeeper at the European Championship, I would have laughed.”
Stekelenburg joined Ajax 12 months ago on a one-year deal as cover for Andre Onana, but when the Cameroonian received a doping ban in February he played his first league game in almost four years – after just 14 appearances for Everton.
Then Dutch No.1 Jasper Cillessen tested positive for Covid-19 virus and was left out of the tournament.