Why Angel Di Maria Will Offset the Loss of Gareth Bale for Real Madrid
"Carlo Ancelotti told me that whoever is better will play," the Argentinian told Pop and Rock radio in September, via goal.com. "I think that Bale wasn't training in Tottenham, so I guess I have a head start."
If he thought he had a head start then, he certainly has one now given the Welshman's ongoing injury toils since he arrived in Spain.
And with Bale unable to take part in Madrid's last two games, di Maria has more than demonstrated that it's not going to be easy for the Welshman to walk into the side at the Bernabeu when he eventually returns to full fitness—whatever his price tag.
In the Champions League against FC Copenhagen last week di Maria was majestic.
He carried Madrid in the second half; the rabona assist he produced for Cristiano Ronaldo's second of the night is a must see (if you haven't already been infiltrated by it), and it was later offset by two goals of his own.
Squawka revealed the true extend of his creativity on the night:
[The rabona] was one of four key crosses he provided on the night, one of five successful crosses in total and one of 11 attempted crosses on the night - he also completed 80 percent of his 49 passes.
Not that Ancelotti ever had any doubts over his quality, as goal.com reported:
"[Di Maria] can play in many positions—on the right, on the left or in the centre. He is very flexible and that makes him important for us."
The 25-year-old's stats this season are already showing his importance for the team.
In 10 appearances in all competitions, two of which were as a substitute, di Maria has scored two goals and created four more.
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On top of that, in La Liga he has created 19 chances—more than anyone else in Los Blancos' squad (Isco 15 and Ronaldo 13).
Since joining Real Madrid from Benfica in 2010 they have benefited from 46 assists in just 98 Primera Division games—that's almost near enough one every second game—while he has also scored 18 goals.
His major problems have been inconsistency and the odd injury curtailing him just when he looks to have hit form.
Famed for blowing hot and cold, with the challenge of Bale waiting in the wings it's in di Maria's best interests to make sure he blows hot for as long as he keeps his place Ancelotti's starting lineup.
Presuming he can carry on the sort of form that took Copenhagen apart, it's going to offset the loss of Bale.
In fact, it could do more than that—it could keep him in the team.
And with El Clasico creeping up at the end of the month, di Maria is sure to want to maintain his status as a starter.
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