Paris Saint-Germain have seen many players come and go, many of whom have made varying levels of impact in the club’s history. However, not many in recent history have been more consistent than Angel di Maria these last few weeks.
It is difficult to make the news in this age of football where the goals matter most if you’re a forward, and traditional wingers have to either step up or get shipped out/asked to play somewhere else. However, Di Maria has managed to remain a traditional winger while adopting some of the elements of the modern winger.
Against Real Madrid in the opening matchday of the 2019/20 Champions League, Di Maria’s brace helped PSG open their account in style, as they beat Madrid – with whom he won the trophy in 2014 – by three goals without reply at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night. This win happened despite the absences of the club’s star attackers Neymar (serving a suspension), Kylian Mbappe, and Edinson Cavani (both missing due to injuries). In their absence, Di Maria turned on the style against his former club, ensuring PSG seized early control of Group A.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 18, 2019
After Di Maria’s brace, he became just one of three elite players to score a brace against the El Clasico teams in the Champions League.
These types of performances are not new for the Rosario-born winger, who always turns up in place of and alongside all the stars who he has played supporting cast to in the course of his career. The 30-year-old is one of a distinctive group to have played with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar and these monsters have not stopped him from churning out good performances. Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG was his biggest challenge ever, as the expectation was that Di Maria would be squeezed out. PSG, also, were willing to sell. Instead, he stayed. put his foot down and became a key part of PSG’s team.
This performance against Madrid led fans of Manchester United, from whom he left for PSG after the 2014/15 season to tweet their true feelings about Di Maria, who also tortured their club last season when PSG played Man Utd in the Champions League knockout rounds (Man Utd eventually qualified on away goals).
Di Maria with United vs Di Maria when he left to PSG pic.twitter.com/AqfzhgvtD8
— Mohamad🇾🇪🔰 (@UtdMohamad) September 18, 2019
In Di Maria’s “bad” season at Man Utd in which players and club chiefs felt he “wasn’t giving 100%”, he still managed to rack up 10 assists, while averaging 2.3 shots, 1.9 key passes, 1.7 dribbles, 2.5 long balls and getting dispossessed an average of 1.2 times per game, stats that surpass many of those who have come after him.
Many at PSG, however, would greatly dispute those perceptions of Di Maria and would argue he just needs the right setting to show his real strength. This is, after all, a player who was the man of the match in the 2014 Champions League final, and the same player whose national teammates have, for a long time, considered him the national team’s most important player after Messi – who also loves Di Maria, per the Independent.
On matchday five in Ligue 1, Di Maria put in a massive shift as PSG pressured a stubborn Olympique Lyon side who did everything right defensively. He found Neymar in space in the 87th minute, and the Brazilian weaved his way through the crowd that gathered around him to score PSG’s only goal of the game. Before the goal, he and Neymar did everything right going forward. He had a shot saved by Anthony Lopes in 24th minute and played Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – as well as other teammates – through with eight long balls (seven completed) but the Cameroonian could not make the most of his balls. He completed five of five take-ons, had four shots blocked, and attempted four crosses into the box. His persistence in pushing the attack alongside Neymar finally paid off after Neymar got the goal from an assist provided by him.
In his 188 games for PSG, he has assisted 71 and scored 74 goals – a combined 145 goal involvements, while making top ten lists in various game contributions consistently and earning 23 man of the match awards – the second most of all of PSG’s current attackers (behind Neymar, of course). This season in the Ligue 1, Di Maria has two goals and two assists, two man of the match awards and an average rating of 7.66.
PSG’s financial prowess means they will keep strengthening their squad and this only serves to spur Di Maria on to keep churning out impressive performances. Forget, Neymar, Cavani, and Mbappe – Angel Di Maria is PSG’s secret weapon.
All stats via Transfermarkt and WhoScored.