The news that is beginning to resonate among soccer fans is that there is a new superstar on the block. Maybe he does not have the commercial appeal or might not be able to sell as many shirts as James Rodriquez or Cristiano Ronaldo but in terms of all round ability he is the best player in the world.
His name is Angel Di Maria and he hails from the same town as Lionel Messi in Rosario, Argentina.
Previously he was overshadowed by the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Falcao. In 2013 he was not even named among the top 23 players competing for FIFA World Player of the Year while lesser players like Hazard, Cavani and Pirlo were on the list of nominees. He was overlooked not because he did not deserve to be nominated but because the award is more of a personality contest than about merit.
Yet today we are comparing him to the best players. But there is one big difference which is that he is more creative, more versatile, has more passing ability and more pace than all of them.
In terms of his creativity, in the 2013 -14 season he had 22 assists (more than Messi or Ronaldo) and was the top assist maker in La Liga. He created 90 chances playing as a central midfielder rather than in his usual role as a winger. In the recent friendly against the world champions Germany, he split open their defense from wide positions to score a goal and set up three other goals.
He is more versatile and has a higher work rate than Messi and Ronaldo. That is why he is called the “stamina beast” as he can play in offensive positions but frequently tracks back to help the defense (unlike Messi and Ronaldo).
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He plays on the left or right flanks as a midfielder, as an attacking central midfielder and playmaker or as a supporting striker.
His passing ability sets him apart from every other player. He sees spaces, has a quick eye for a killer pass and can deliver a pass with pinpoint accuracy.
He has pace over long distances and has explosive acceleration. One can recall his 90 yard dash to set up Ronaldo against Fiorentina in 2014 and in the Champions League Final he did a zig-zag dribble past 3 players, took a shot which rebounded off the keeper which Gareth Bale tapped in to give Real Madrid the trophy. His solo run changed the complexion of the game and not surprisingly he was named man of the match. Then the pundits suddenly started to take notice of him.
His success continued in the 2014 World Cup and in the round of 16 he scored the only goal of the game against Switzerland after making a dash to get on the end of a through pass from Messi which was pure class. In the entire tournament he had more shots on goal than Messi and although he played almost 300 fewer minutes he had only one fewer solo run into the penalty area than Messi who won the Golden Ball as best player. Unfortunately he missed the final game against Germany through injury which makes you wonder what might have been.
After the World Cup he asked to be paid by his club Real Madrid as one of their top players but they refused and he was then sold for nearly $100 million to Manchester United which is the fifth most expensive transfer of all time and the highest fee paid by a British club.
After a slow start to the new season by Manchester United Di Maria in his first game against Queens Park Rangers scored his first goal with an awesome free-kick which floated over the line of defensive players and bounced inside the far post and Manchester United claimed their first win under new coach Louis Van Gaal.
With the addition of the Argentine to the Manchester United team they have returned to their winning ways which is no wonder they were willing to pay so much for him.
Given his success at the end of last season, his performance in the World Cup and his impressive start to the new season for club and country it will be hard for FIFA to exclude Di Maria from Player of the Year in 2014.