Ángel Di María, the world-record signing by a British team, didn’t exactly settle in in his first, and from the looks of it only, season in Manchester. Brought in as part of Louis van Gaal’s rebuilding project, di María started with a bang, only to slowly fade and become a supporting character in Manchester United’s quest to get back to the Champions League. And while statistics show that di Maria had a good season, it never really felt like it was the case. And Ángel never felt like he belonged.
At his most productive, di María is the proverbial glue guy. He’s not quite a superstar, yet he is more than capable of having a superstar-type game. That, however, is not what he is best at, not what he is comfortable doing.
At Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale grabbed all the headlines, but it was di María’s creativity and remarkable stamina that allowed them to flourish the way they did. He was the reason Real won the 2014 Champions League final, and it was his lack of fitness in successive summers that probably cost Argentina a couple of international titles.
That wasn’t the case at Manchester. He never really meshed with van Gaal’s industrious, workmanlike philosophy, which tasked him with doing basic winger things, something Carlo Ancelotti realized is not what Di María is. Ángel was clipped of his wings (sorry) and as a result, always appeared subdued, not quite there. He lost confidence and subsequently his place in the team. Now, according to major French outlets and Zlatan, he is off to Paris.
Quite honestly, this move should have happened last summer. Di María was probably always going to end up at Paris Saint-Germain, but FFP regulations prevented the Ligue 1 champions from getting him. He will now join Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti, two hardworking, energetic central midfielders much like him. What’s more, he probably keeps his place on that team, as he fits with what they are trying to do a lot more than he fit LvG’s philosophy.
Yesterday, journalist Daniel Harris asked why anyone would go to play for PSG. Whisper it, but the Paris club is potentially now the second-best club in Europe. Adding di María to that midfield makes it probably the best midfield in Europe. The only other contender is Real Madrid, and I think the PSG midfield’s defensive prowess is much more formidable than Real’s. And when that attack starts clicking, it is downright unstoppable.
There are a number of ways this could go wrong for the Paris outfit, and they primarily have to do with their manager. Laurent Blanc, also known as the terrorist, is so cautious and conservative tactically that Di María may yet find himself in just the hole he was in at United (albeit without the break in). This, however, is a very extreme scenario, and what will most likely happen is that Larry White realizes the squad’s potential and unleashes it (or he is sacked).
And after a year of enduring turmoil and sadness, Ángel di María will once again (most likely) fly.