Having been linked with a move away all summer, much like now Arsenal star Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria has managed to reinvent himself this season and become an integral part to a Real Madrid side that are still in the hunt for three titles this season.
Many expected that he would be the most likely to leave with Gareth Bale joining the Galacticos this summer but it was the creative German that was the one to go. Even then, with the inclusion of Isco and the possible breakthrough of Jese (which has also happened) people felt that Di Maria was an expensive luxury and would be moved on in the summer.
However, the Argentinian has been revived by manager Carlo Ancelotti and not only is he unable to keep Di Maria out of the first team but as shown in the Classico, he can be vital to sparking Real Madrid into life. Changing his starting position from out wide to in the centre of the park has been a master-stroke from the Italian, with Di Maria being more involved in play and that has contributed to his 13 assists in all competitions so far, already more than the entirety of last season.
The position he now occupies is what many may mistakenly see as a number 10 or false number 10, but Di Maria is essentially playing as a box-to-box midfielder yet he is allowed to drift out wide during attacks if needed. This allows him to use his experience as a winger to make the runs out wide and deliver crosses, allowing Ronaldo and/or Bale to be in the box where they are the most dangerous.
What he brings that Isco and also Ozil wouldn’t is the balance that Ancelotti was desperate to find in his team. Madrid has had a lack of it in recent years, their defence left exposed by maurading wing-backs and two wingers unwilling to track back but with Di Maria has seemed to stem that issue with his willingness to run for the majority of a game.
With that new found position has come new found confidence and Di Maria is possibly in the best form of his career. Had it not been for the red card for Sergio Ramos, Madrid may have won the Classico and Di Maria would have certainly been at the top of the list for Man of the Match with his two excellent assists to Karim Benzema.
But what underlined his recent upsurge was the worry when he seemed to have fainted on the pitch. Whilst clearly a possible health concern, he was okayed by doctors to return and within seconds he brilliantly set up Benzema’s second. It’s that spirit that Ancelotti has given him to go above and beyond for the team.
Di Maria has repaid the manager’s faith in him in spades. The man management style of the Italian could be key in Madrid’s attempt at a treble this season and he’s been the breath of fresh air the squad needed after the Mourinho era. He’s stuck by his guns, got Madrid playing the stylish football without as much reckless abandon whilst getting every single player on his side, bar possibly the still isolated Iker Casillas.
But going back to Di Maria, he’ll be delighted with his season so far and will be keen to continue impressing in a World Cup year. He’d be desperate to start for Argentina in a South American World Cup, just as much as his side will be desperate to upstage Brazil in their own backyard. If he keeps it up, Di Maria might be key in the summer too.