It was a reminder of the effect an elite playmaker can have on a match.
Shortly after the restart at the Bernabeu, and with 10-man Real Madrid level at a goal apiece with visiting Galatasaray, Angel di Maria picked out Alvaro Arbeloa with an accurate cross for the right-back to direct into goal.
Then, less than 20 minutes later, Di Maria got his own name on the scoresheet when he beat Galatasaray goalkeeper Eray Iscan from in close, Arbeloa having played provider in this instance.
Madrid, against the odds, went on to beat an opponent that had enjoyed numerical supremacy for more than an hour, and despite touching the ball just 61 times over the 90 minutes, Di Maria had so affected the encounter he was named Man of the Match.
No wonder Monaco are so keen to sign him next month.
According to a Saturday report in Marca, the principality side have already agreed on personal terms with the 25-year-old and will shortly post a €35 million offer for his signature—an amount almost identical to that which Madrid paid Benfica for his services (when add-ons are included) back in 2010.
But the absence of profit has nothing to do with why Madrid should fight tooth and nail to keep Di Maria at the club; his performance against Galatasaray in November does.
With Cristiano Ronaldo sidelined through injury, it fell to the Argentine and Gareth Bale to lead the charge up front, and while Bale opened the scoring, it proved to be Di Maria who put the team on his shoulders.
Now, the Marca report cites the attacker’s concern over playing time as his primary reason for wanting to leave. No doubt Bale’s arrival has a lot to do with that, but from a depth perspective, Madrid aren’t even in a position to entertain the possibility of his exit.
And if they think they are, they’re sadly mistaken.
That Ronaldo and Bale will make up two-thirds of an attacking trident behind a lone striker for years to come is beyond debate, but Madrid cannot for one second assume the two of them and Isco will be fit and available to play every single match in every competition going forward.
Ronaldo’s current injury is proof enough of that, as is the muscle problem that kept Bale out of the line-up upon arriving in the Spanish capital in the first place.
Real Madrid need Di Maria, and it falls to them to help him realize that.
Of course, Monaco could well test Madrid’s resolve with an offer well above €35 million, and with so much of their project centred around Radamel Falcao they may need to make this signing—and several others like it—simply to keep him happy at the Ligue 1 side.
In other words, they may feel a need to demonstrate their ambitions by acquiring depth—exactly the sort of thing Madrid would not be doing if they sold Di Maria.
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