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The marginalisation that threatened Angel Di Maria prior to Gareth Bale's blockbuster move initially smacked of the superficial and financial shortsightedness so often levelled at Real Madrid's Galacticos transfer policy.
At the turn of the century, Luis Figo's controversial switch from Barcelona spelled the end of Fernando Redondo and Nicolas Anelka's time with Los Blancos, and utterly diminished the status of Steve McManaman.
The jinky Liverpudlian winger had, in fact, just turned in a man-of-the-match performance in the 2000 Champions League final to help clinch Real's eighth European cup.
In the wake of Bale's £86 million arrival from Spurs, then, a flurry of rumoured Bernabeu departures gripped the press in both England and Spain. Yet, Di Maria, like McManaman, possesses both a demonstrable level of versatility and mental resilience that moved him to reassert his commitment to the Spanish side.
“I do not want to go,” declared Di Maria before the opening of the January transfer window, amid stories suggesting the Argentine had been unsettled by the signing of Bale. “I want to win my place in the team. I have been through some difficult days. I am just thinking about Real Madrid and I am still working hard. I have to keep going and try to earn a place in the team.”
As it panned out, questions posed by the left-sided attacking Welshman over Di Maria's starting berth would eventually be rendered moot by tactical adjustments. Carlo Ancelotti took the decision to alter his role, taking the Argentina international from the wing and instead stationing him ahead of Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso in attacking midfield.
Though the outcome has been a resounding success, transfer rumours persist, albeit now with a slightly different spin, and it has emerged Arsenal may offer Real Madrid £32 million for Angel Di Maria's services.
The negatives and positives of Mesut Ozil's signing mean Gunners fans, and likely Arsene Wenger himself, will be in two minds as to whether having finally undertaken a big-money signing has been a success or not. Regardless, it would be a crying shame if that uncertainty put them off bringing Di Maria to the Premier League.
Certainly, Arsenal are in no way understocked in terms of versatile midfielders who can play both inside and out wide. However, in terms of both statistics and overall quality, Di Maria by far outstrips Wenger's current options. Additionally, at 33 and 29 respectively, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla are either at their peak or just past it.
Signing Real Madrid's 26-year-old attacker would not just be a case of trading in an older model for a younger one, however. He would also represent a tremendous amount of intent regarding Arsenal's ambitions for next season.
In terms of his ability to lay on goals for team-mates, Di Maria has been imperious this season. His tally of 16 assists in the domestic division is one no other player across Europe's top five leagues can match.
Especially considering the pace the acquisition would bring, which the Gunners have sorely lacked in Theo Walcott's absence, the fact that Di Maria has become such an integral cog in Ancelotti's finely tuned counter-attacking machine of a side only enhances his appeal.
In terms of carrying the ball up the pitch through oppositional lines, Di Maria has successfully performed 46 take-ons this season. Among the current Arsenal squad, only Cazorla has completed more.
Just as the £42m purchase of Ozil helped Real, mindful of FFP regulations, go some way toward balancing the books before pinching Bale from Spurs, buying Di Maria may be accompanied by another pleasant side effect.
The Spanish giants are, by some accounts, lining up another audacious swoop for Liverpool's Luis Suarez, though it might be overly cynical to presume the prospect of compromising a Premier League rival would figure in Wenger's transfer activity.
While the Galacticos policy frequently draws criticism, it also usually signals opportunities to strengthen for opportunistic clubs. If Di Maria does fall victim to Real's thirst for marquee additions, there is no reason Arsenal should not make sure they can be the ones to benefit.
If Ozil sparked a title surge that ultimately failed, Di Maria carries the firepower that could ensure Arsenal finish next season with a bang.
- Sports & Recreation
- Angel Di Maria
- Real Madrid
- Gareth Bale