Memphis Depay has lashed out at Lyon fans who displayed a banner calling centre-back Marcelo a donkey after the Ligue 1 side had qualified for the group stage of the Champions League.
Depay scored a late goal to secure a 2-2 draw against Leipzig on Tuesday and sent Lyon through, but was then incensed by a fan who entered the field brandishing the banner with a picture of a donkey on it that urged his Brazil defender Marcelo to “Get Lost.” It is part of an ongoing and increasingly tense dispute between the Brazilian defender and sections of the Lyon support who no longer want him at the club.
Depay sprinted half the length of the field and tried to yank the banner from the fan, who moved to the side and then backed off into the stands. But more Lyon players joined in to back up Depay and, although there were no physical altercations, Marcelo was shown on television aiming a middle-finger gesture with both hands raised.
Depay, the club captain, was barely able to contain his anger when speaking to French broadcaster RMC Sport after the game. “Look in my eyes. I’m upset, angry. I don’t know what to say,” the Netherlands forward said. “You know how hard it is for the team when we know that somebody on our team has troubles with the supporters? What do you expect from us?
“You go to the supporters and thank them and they say crazy, crazy things about somebody’s family, somebody’s kids,” Depay added. “I have no words. It doesn’t make sense.”
He urged people “higher up in the club” to take appropriate decisions. “It’s very, very difficult to keep myself calm,” Depay said. “You can see on the camera, they [some of the fans] spit on us. What can I say? I’ve never seen something like this.”
Lyon’s coach Rudi Garcia, who is unpopular with sections of Lyon’s support having previously coached bitter rival Marseille, backed Depay’s intervention. “He’s a real captain and he’s acted and spoken like a captain,” Garcia said. “It shows the strength and unity of this team.”
Marcelo has become a particular target of a group of ultras known as “Bad Gones” since an angry exchange at Lisbon airport on the way back from Lyon’s defeat at Benfica in October. The defender took exception to players being berated as they waited for their plane. Earlier this month Marcelo’s wife, Tatiane Guedes, took to Instagram so say the campaign against her husband was being led by “one idiot”.
“He’s just one idiot who wants to show himself, his problem with my husband is personal,” Guedes wrote. RMC radio station in France reported on Wednesday that Marcelo was concerned about the safety of his family and had informed teammates he wants to leave the club.
On the field, Depay had underlined his growing value to Lyon with his 82nd-minute equaliser to maintain his record of scoring in every group game he’s played so far. He latched on to a loose ball in the penalty area and struck an angled shot into the bottom left corner. Referee Anthony Taylor gave the goal after a video review ruled out a foul by Depay on a defender as they challenged for the ball. “We’re proud, we started the game badly but we managed to get the draw, that’s means we have not sunk, we have the right state of mind, we are united, we are strong,” Depay said.
The former Manchester United forward has been in sparkling form for club and country this season, scoring 17 goals in 21 appearances.