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Angel Di Maria: Broken hearted, broken minded

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Angel Di Maria’s transfer to Manchester United has always seemed like a marriage of convenience. With the Argentinian unwanted by Real Madrid President Florentino Perez in the Summer of 2014 and with Perez’s Old Trafford counterpart, Ed Woodward, desperate to attach his own name to a marquee signing, Di Maria’s move to England was really in the common interest.

Everyone’s interest except his own, maybe.

It was suggested at the time that Di Maria’s preferred option would have been to remain in the Spanish capital. In fact, it has been claimed that Perez was really the only person in Madrid who was eager to see him leave - and, now that this unhappy chapter is coming to an end, that seems particularly pertinent.

Di Maria’s transfer was never really a footballing transaction and he was neither bought nor sold for any obvious sporting reason. Yes, his attributes should have theoretically improved Manchester United but, just as Perez’s decision to sell him was derived from his perpetual need for newer, shinier players, Woodward wanted Di Maria more for his PR value than his left-foot.

It was his “I can” moment, a bold retaliation against the accusations he was facing at the time.

While the transfer was circumstantially opaque, Di Maria’s early form belied any discontent. He looked happy to be in England and, while it may have represented a false dawn, his scooped goal at Leicester was every inch the hallmark of a world-class player.

There were no warning signs; he reacted well to his teammates, he bubbled with apparent enthusiasm and he was seemingly of the attitude that Madrid’s loss was going to be United’s gain.

As and when leaves the club - presumably to PSG within the coming week - the summation will be that he failed. Superficially, that’s probably fair: his on-pitch performances frequently betrayed his ability and he will depart these shores with his reputation tarnished.

In the coming days, the articles will start to appear. It will be reasoned, not without cause, that he was a victim of Manchester United’s state of mini-flux and that he arrived at the club at the wrong time and under the wrong manager. Excuses will be made, too, and platitudes about his inability to settle or adjust to the English culture will be tossed around liberally.

He didn’t suit the system; he didn’t have a natural home within Van Gaal’s side; his playing style didn’t suit United’s game or his teammates abilities.

Those are all fair points and they all have a place in the debate, but maybe the defining problem lurked deep within this transfer texture - maybe he was playing with a broken heart?

It’s tempting to equate that with a lack of passion or a failure to be properly committed, but it’s not the same thing. When Di Maria’s stock began to fall at Manchester United, he made no discernible retaliation. Within six months, all his initial energy and novelty had dissipated and been replaced with something far darker: he looked like an unhappy player, like someone who couldn’t wait for the lights to go down and the chance to crawl off the stage.

Elite players are creatures of ego. When their pride is damaged by a poor run of form, they typically show signs of rage - the passes may not find their mark and the goals may not come, but their hurt is nearly always apparent during a barren spell. Watch Ronaldo, watch Messi: when they’re unable to impose their greatness on a game, watch them fizz with febrile frustration.

That was never the case with Di Maria and his laissez faire approach gave him away. He was damaged; his mind was so thick with who-knows-what that he looked almost fragile.  His confidence was gone and he showed no desire to locate it.

It’s a really sad end - for Manchester United fans, but also for the league as a whole. Angel Di Maria is a terrific player and one who could and should have carved his own set of memories into the competition’s walls.

This doesn’t have a happy ending and his existence in this country will now be limited to appearing on derisory lists and within derogatory articles - and, given the forces that brought him to England, maybe it was inevitable that he’d leave this way.

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4 Comments on "Angel Di Maria: Broken hearted, broken minded"

  1. Shaikh Mehboob | Aug 1, 2015 at 7:07 pm |

    I think it’s total fault of van gaal who couldn’t manage a world class player n get the best out of him… A player like him sitting on the bench is a shame for any manager… How on earth that happened… He was not in the starting lineup for big games against City, Chelsea n Liverpool… U can’t do that I mean come on

  2. I’m stupefied by this article. You want us to believe that a club breaks the record of the PL to get this player and to not put him in the best conditions to do a job for which he was paid a f**** hell of money? What do you all say about Özil who was so much insulted by all and fought and improved? And now this poor Angel who was misunderstood under a bad coach? My god.. the simple proof he is a fraud is his unwillingness to simply do his job and join his club during summer. A fraud is out of the PL and we can all be happy and stop praising a most overrated guys who doesn’t deserve one word of consideration.

  3. He signed for the wrong club at the wrong time. Di Maria is a player of excellent ability but who needs to feel wanted by the Manager. LVG is not that Manager. Should have gone to Arsenal or Chelsea.

  4. Trickywinger | Jul 31, 2015 at 7:19 pm |

    Van Gaal has to take some of the blame here. Heaven knows why Di Maria was constantly benched he should have played and regained his confidence to show what a really great player he is that no one can deny. It’s United’s loss they could have had a truly superstar player week in week out,

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