El Centrocampista

STAR TURN – The unsung hero of Real Madrid

As the dust settled on Real Madrid’s 3-2 Copa del Rey victory over Malaga on Tuesday night, something was glaringly obvious – just how much Jose Mourinho’s side missed the injured Angel Di Maria.

After all, here is a player who has 13 assists already to his name this season, two more than the entire Malaga side put together.

While the potential for Di Maria to be a top player has always been there, he has often been accused of being lazy, a little wasteful and sorely lacking when it comes to defensive responsibilities.

The problem for the Argentine in terms of club football is that in a Mourinho team, effort and tracking back are mandatory and this, coupled with a side that has the scintillating but not exactly defensivley minded Cristiano Ronaldo within it’s ranks, means Di Maria cannot shirk his defensive duties – Ronaldo is afforded more freedom in that respect than any player ever has under Mourinho and the rest of the team have to make up for this.

Di Maria has also been accused of being wasteful in possession and losing the football too much – another crime under the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’.

In his first season in Spain, Di Maria struggled to adapt to Mourinho’s philosophy, and it did not go unnoticed. When you look at players such as Pedro or even Messi, and the amount of effort they put into tracking back and helping the team, it was evident that Di Maria needed to do much more.

The winger has since worked on his game and has shown this season, exactly why Real Madrid coveted him so much, eventually paying a great sum to secure his services. After an early season red card, Di Maria has gone on to win rave reviews and has improved as the season has progressed, becoming close to a certain starter in the process.

He has even edged out Kaka and Ozil – essentially forcing Mourinho to pick him.

One of the biggest improvements from the Argentine throughout the season is his work rate. Take el clasico for example – Di Maria was everywhere, tracking back and chasing every ball. It is this effort that Mourinho has noticed and will probably earn even more respect from his coach than the unbelievable amount of assists from the player.

The time when Di Maria’s future at the Bernabeu was questioned is long gone, and during the Copa game they missed the spark he provides the team, not to mention his vision and ability to thread a pass through to the front player, be it Benzema, Higuain or Ronaldo.

Di Maria has become not just a fancy player who can provide a pretty flick but then give the ball away, he is now a player of real substance who has four league goals to his name, one in the Champion’s League and 13 assists – all at the half way point of the season.

However, it is not just in the comfort of the Santiago Bernabeu that the 23-year-old performs; he is more than capable of making an impact in tough away games and now has a steel about him not previously displayed.

With so much of the focus on Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria is flying surprisingly low under the radar for a player of his calibre, yet as the season progresses he could prove out to be key man as Mourinho’s side attempt to topple Barcelona.



  1. Liam

    6 January, 2012 at 20:58

    La Pulga and El Fideo. Two Rosario old boys leading the way for the big two.

    “Many people didn’t understand why we bought di María,” Mourinho said last season. “He came from Benfica after he didn’t have a good year and after a World Cup where he didn’t shine. But I knew this kid had a lot to offer.”

    Since then I think he has come on a great deal. I thought when he signed he may have little effect on the league in much the same way as Ricardo Queresma did when he signed for Barcelona from the Portugese league. He has proved me wrong though and become a solid player who as you noted not only provides assists but also tracks back for the team. He has only improved as the season has gone on with a series of strong performances. This went some way to displaying the positive side to his game following the debacle against Levante. Di Maria has already surpassed his assist total from last season so hopefully for him he can sustain the quality shown in the first half of the season.

  2. the ref

    6 January, 2012 at 22:28

    Becoming a top player. IMO he will get better as his confidence grows . Good buy by Special One.

  3. Iain McMullen

    6 January, 2012 at 23:31

    Di Maria has been one of the highlights of La Liga this season which, if I’m honest, has surprised me a little.

    I didn’t see him as a player who would make any real impact at the Bernabeu but he is proving me wrong. As said, his work-rate has been refreshing to see as well.

  4. Jafar

    7 January, 2012 at 13:39

    Best player so far in La Liga IMO. And surprise to be honest but I still think that he will go down a little after the winter break but he might surprise me again.

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