7 Best Moments of Angel Di Maria at Real Madrid
Angel Di Maria is a man who is currently playing at the peak of his game, and Manchester United are looking at him expectantly as the saviour who shall deliver them from their present woes. The main strength of the Argentine winger is to make darting runs down the flanks, and so he can hardly be expected to bring any substance to the centre, the area of the pitch where United have looked the most flimsy.However, Di Maria can strike when least expected, and on his day can carry the whole team on his shoulders. Not only that, he has a habit of coming good in the biggest of matches, as is seen from the following account of his best moments at Real Madrid. In 2010, he was signed by Real Madrid for €25 million. Despite not being one of the biggest names in the Real midfield at the time, he managed to carve out a niche for himself and was gradually picked ahead of Mesut Ozil and Kaka in the starting line-up. In his four seasons under the Spanish sun, he played a total of 124 matches and scored 22 goals. No less important were the number of assists he provided – never as much as the 2013-14 season when he had the highest number of assists in the La Liga – 17. Manchester United have therefore stretched themselves and broken the British transfer record to get Di Maria’s services to bail them out.One thing is for certain whenever Di Maria takes the field, there shall be a lot of energy and activity on at least one flank and the penalty box will be bombarded with crosses from that same direction. It remains to be seen how he combines with the likes of van Persie and Rooney, but a lot of entertainment is guaranteed at the very least.
#1 August 2010 against Penarol
Di Maria announced his arrival to Real Madrid in as much style as can be imagined, and Manchester United fans will be hoping he can make a similar sort of entry into life in English football.
Real Madrid were facing CA Penarol in the last pre-league fixture for the year, and the Santiago Bernabeu trophy was at stake. In the 68th minute of his first appearance in front of the home fans, Di Maria burst into life with a magical solo run. His entire stock of tricks was on display as he evaded one tackle with a lay-on which he himself ran onto, then made the defender turn this way and that in the penalty box, and slotted a goal past the keeper’s outstretched hand with the utmost composure.
He beamed at his onrushing teammates who were coming to congratulate him – it was going to be the first of many such moments.
#2 December 2011 against Sevilla
There were some days when Di Maria played like a man possessed, this La Liga night at the Sanchez Pizjuan being the first when his massive potential came to the forefront.
The Argentine threaded a beautiful ball through a tiny gap between two defenders to set up Ronaldo for the first goal, lofted another precise pass over the Sevilla back line to find Jose Callejon for the second and had the honour of adding one goal to his own name later on when he typically raced away down the left and cut inside to beat the goalkeeper with a low finish.
Ronaldo grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick on the night, but it was clear to all that the Argentine’s inspired performance was what gave them a 6-2 victory.
#3 2011 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona
Jose Mourinho had brought Di Maria to Real Madrid, and the Argentine justified his coach’s trust by providing him with his first silverware with the Los Blancos.
Real Madrid and arch-rivals Barcelona were locked at 0-0 for the whole of the ninety minutes, and beyond into extra-time. With the players’ stamina and nerves being taken to the limit, Di Maria drew some desperate tackles from the Barcelona defenders time and again. He almost won the game in the 90th minute for his team with a measured shot, which Valdes somehow managed to reach a left hand out to.
Despite usually being deployed down the right flank by Mourinho, Di Maria would often change places with Ronaldo, and it was the result of such a move that the deciding goal came in the 104th minute. After a brilliant one two exchange with Marcelo, the Argentine whipped in a cross from the left, which met Ronaldo’s head and sailed into the net.
#4 August 2012 against Barcelona
Only months after Real Madrid had defeated Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final courtesy of a Di Maria cross, he was back to haunt his El Clasico foes yet again, this time in the Supercopa de Espana tie.
The first leg was being played at Camp Nou, and the home team were up by 3-1 and were commanding possession and the general flow of the game. Real Madrid were looking harried and not very eager to chase what was looking like a lost cause. It was at such a juncture in the 85th minute that Di Maria chased a back pass from the complacent Barcelona defence and forced Valdes into making a costly mistake to make the scoreline read 3-2.
The heart shown by Di Maria in this match turned out to be vital, as Real won 2-1 in the second leg at Bernabeu to take the trophy on away goals. It is someone of this kind of mental fortitude that can resurrect Manchester United’s flailing fortunes – someone who can get up immediately when thrown to ground and keep on attacking no matter how bad the situation looks.
#5 Februrary 2013 - Embarrassing Puyol at Camp Nou
Di Maria won over Real fans with a sense of finality on this particular day after he left the Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol flat on the ground, and the Catalans in a similar sense of disarray looking at a two goal deficit in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi final.
He ran onto a through ball and found himself one-on-one with the Barcelona warhorse. The Argentine turned Puyol inside out in the penalty box, brutally exposing his shortcomings, and shot at goal to provide Ronaldo with an opportunity to score from the rebound. Split in half and left for dead, this single moment signalled the end of Puyol’s reputation as a defensive rock, and he was never as dependable ever since.
Real Madrid went on to win by three goals to one and reach the Copa del Rey final after having overcome their fiercest rivals in this tournament yet again.
#6 October 2013 against FC Copenhagen
Di Maria makes some flamboyant moves when he is in the mood, and he was in the best of moods on this night of Champions League action at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The ‘rabona’ assist he made from the touchline for the second goal was an individual masterpiece of the highest order, and delighted the whole of his team who came rushing in. If it looked like a dance, it was because it was precisely that. The term 'rabona' comes from the Argentine tango dance and is said to be completed in football when one foot is placed behind the other to cross or shoot.
Realizing it was his day, Di Maria did not stop at that. He made a solo run down the right side and cut in to hammer in a shot from close range for his first goal in the 71st minute before leaving the defence rolling on the ground and rifling home a low drive past the keeper for the second in injury time. There was only one choice for the man of the match on this day, even for the most fervent Ronaldo fans.
#7 May 2014 - Real Madrid\'s La Decima
Di Maria’s final contribution in the Los Blancos jersey ensured that his legacy at the club will not be forgotten in a long time.
In the first final in UCL history to be disputed between two teams from the same city, the bigger Madrid club equalized in the third minute of stoppage time to take the match to extra time. With all 21 players around him struggling with fatigue, Angel di Maria lit up the night with some incisive runs. In what has become the defining moment of his time at Madrid, Di Maria made a remarkable run down the left-hand side, skipping past three Atleti defenders, which almost resulted in one of the greatest goals in a Champions League final. Courtois blocked out the shot at the end of the run, but the ball fell to Bale who needed to make the simplest of finishes to give Real the lead for the first time in the match.
The famed La Decima had been achieved, and the star of the night was without doubt the inimitable Angel di Maria. His role on that day will certainly be the long-lasting memory of many madridistas and soon after his move to Manchester was announced, Xabi Alonso tweeted: "Thanks for everything, 'Fideo'! We will always remember your zig-zag in Lisbon!"