Paris Saint-Germain had coveted Ángel Di María for more than a year by the time they signed him for £44million from Manchester United in the summer of 2014, but now the Argentinian winger is surplus to requirements at the Parc des Princes.
Neymar’s world-record €220million arrival in the French capital this summer, followed swiftly by PSG’s capture of versatile teenage forward Kylian Mbappé, means that the Parisians are now awash with attacking options; something has to give.
And that something could be Di María. Almost as soon as Neymar’s transfer had been confirmed, the 29-year-old was being linked with big-money moves to the Premier League, while Barcelona were thought to be close to signing the former Real Madrid man before the transfer window closed.
Now, though, with a World Cup in the horizon and his playing time reducing, a move elsewhere could be the best thing for Di María, while PSG will welcome a hefty bid for the ex-Benfica star to help satisfy Financial Fair Play (FFP) requirements.
Who is Ángel Di María?
The Rosario-born winger got his big break in Europe when he joined Benfica in 2007, starring for the Eagles for three seasons before being snapped up by José Mourinho’s Real Madrid.
At Madrid, Di María took a little while to settle. Starting predominantly on the right flank, from where he would constantly look to come inside on to his stronger left foot, it wasn’t until Carlo Ancelotti took the reins at the Bernabéu and switched the wide man into a more central role on the left of the midfield three that he produced his best form.
Despite a man-of-the-match display in the 2014 Champions League final, James Rodríguez’s arrival in Madrid meant that Di María was up for sale, and Manchester United shattered the British transfer record to get him, signing the player for £59.7million.
After a positive start to life in the Premier League, Di María’s form tailed off drastically. He soon found himself out of Louis van Gaal’s side and was moved on to PSG after just one season at Old Trafford.
What are Di María’s main strengths?
A phenomenal dribbler with excellent vision and technique, when on form, Di María is one of the best creative attacking players in the world. Inventive, fast and a goal threat, he can do it all, as well as being able to slot in on either flank, centrally as a No.10, or deeper in midfield.
In the above image, we see Di María’s creative powers in full effect against Nice in Ligue 1. With his path on the outside cut off, the Argentinian moves inside and begins to assess his options.
Spotting the run of Edinson Cavani, Di María lifts a delightful chipped pass into the Uruguayan striker’s path, allowing the former Napoli man to take the ball in stride, round the goalkeeper and score.
Another of Di María’s most valuable attributes is his ability to carry the ball at speed over long distances, turning defence into attack and relieving pressure on his team.
Above, we see him collect the ball deep in his own half while playing for Argentina against Ecuador. His pace quickly sees him dart into opposition territory and get his side on the front foot.
With his progress seemingly halted by the close attention of an opponent, Di María produces a mesmerising piece of footwork to leave the defender in his wake and manufacture a situation from which Argentina are now a real scoring threat.
He then has the wherewithal to spot the run of Sergio Agüero through the middle, picking the Manchester City striker out with a swerving low ball into the centre.
What are Di Maria’s main weaknesses?
Despite being a creative flair player, Di María’s work rate cannot be questioned. As evidenced many times during his spell in Madrid, he is more than willing to undertake his defensive duties and happy to carry a heavy workload for the good of the team.
However, he can be frustratingly inconsistent, and is an infuriating figure for fans and team-mates when he is out of form or demotivated. Di María tends to produce his best form in streaks, enjoying weeks-long bursts of superlative creativity, followed by similarly lengthy spells of inactivity.
As the above graphic shows, Di María has not been involved as much as he would hope to be at PSG this term, in part owing to early-season injuries and the embarrassment of attacking riches Unai Emery has at his disposal this term.
How much is Di María worth?
It was reported ver the summer that PSG, despite supposedly needed to sell some key players to offset their record spending, were holding out for around £50million for Di María, and were evidently prepared to hold on to their man if no suitable offers were forthcoming.
It seems unlikely, even in the current market, that any team would offer such a figure for a player of his age, coming from a club who, many feel, will be in urgent need of making sales in the near future.
PSG will be hoping to spark a bidding war for the winger over the next couple of transfer widows to bump his price up, but a fee in the region of £30-40million seems to represent a fair figure for all parties.
Why top clubs should sign Di María
Just because he is being squeezed out of the PSG line-up does not mean that Di María cannot be a star at another top club. Few sides boast the kind of attacking options the Ligue 1 leaders have, and the Argentinian is a top-class player who would walk into 99 per cent of the world’s best teams when on form.
There will surely be interest from the Premier League if and when he departs the Parc des Princes, with Liverpool, Chelsea and former club Manchester United all linked with a move for the 29-year-old.
But Di María still appears to have Barcelona on his mind after coming close to a Camp Nou move in August.
“I was close and at the same time very far from reaching a deal with Barça,” Di Maria told ESPN. “I never lost hope over the chance. I was calm about it but it never happened.
“For sure, life takes many twists and turns and one never knows what the future might hold.”