The end of the 2014 World Cup looks like being the signal for European clubs to begin strengthening their sides for the new season.
According to Carine Galli via Twitter, Paris Saint-Germain’s signing of Real Madrid midfielder Angel Di Maria is complete and will be announced this week:
Angel Di Maria au PSG, c'est fait. L'annonce officielle du transfert sera faite cette semaine. #TresJoliCoupRealiseParlePSG— Carine Galli (@CarineGalli) July 14, 2014
The fee is reported to be in the region of £50 million, a huge move for the French champions. It certainly raises questions around the recent Financial Fair Play restrictions and how it will affect PSG's starting XI for next season, per Pablo Polo's report in Marca.
Last season, PSG coach Laurent Blanc was happy to play 4-3-3 with Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing the central role up front, coming deep to receive the ball and orchestrating the play from more of a No. 10 role.
Edinson Cavani was asked to play slightly to the right of the Swedish forward and was given the freedom to cut inside and fill up the space left by Zlatan.
This still wasn’t enough for the former Napoli man, and as part of his talks with the PSG staff at the end of the season, he has been promised a change in tactics for the new season.
@JohhynE PSG promised Cavani they will be going 2 up top this season. So, a 4-3-1-2 more likely— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) July 13, 2014
Ezequiel Lavezzi played on the left and was quite often PSG’s outlet down the flanks. He gave them natural width, and his relationship down that side with Maxwell was excellent to watch throughout the season.
The signing of Di Maria opens up more possibilities for Blanc. To accommodate Cavani more, he could change to something more like a 4-3-1-2, similar to what third-place Lille played last season. Cavani could operate more centrally, with Di Maria playing in behind the front two.
You would expect Ibrahimovic to continue to play a little deeper, dropping into the space and creating from deep. According to the official LFP.fr stats, Zlatan finished with 11 assists last season, factor in his 26 goals and there is no way you want him to play any differently from the previous campaign.
Playing Di Maria in the No. 10 position could hamper Ibrahimovic’s space in that area of the pitch, but this is where Di Maria needs to be smart, moving to the left when Zlatan drops deep. Once the fluency and partnership develops, it could be very free-flowing and exciting to watch. It would just take some time.
Ironically, if PSG were to stick to the formation from last season, the 4-3-3 would actually suit Di Maria perfectly. He could start on the left-flank and drift to find the space depending on the movement of both Ibrahimovic and Cavani.
Unfortunately, Cavani’s demands to play centrally will mean a change of system, and it has meant PSG need to upgrade on Lavezzi to someone who can play centrally too.
They do have Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore, but both are not quite at Di Maria’s level. Lucas has the potential to be that player, but he is perhaps 12-18 months away if he continues to grow as he has since his move to Ligue 1.
If Lavezzi decides to stay in Paris, he will be a useful substitute for Blanc. He could easily replace Di Maria and Cavani and play on either flank. His demotion to the bench will slightly slow down the PSG attack, and it comes at a time when he was just beginning to settle in the starting lineup.
Overall, Di Maria does look like an upgrade on Lavezzi, the current PSG player failed to register a single assist last season, his seven league goals were certainly impressive during the second half of the campaign, but compared to Di Maria’s 17 assists and four goals, it pales in comparison.
It is a substantial fee, but it is just normal for a player playing at a top club, and it won’t faze the 26-year-old Argentinian player.
Once the deal is confirmed, it will be up to PSG and their staff to help Di Maria get fit for the new season.
He came off after 33 minutes of the quarter-final against Belgium and missed the semi-final and final. PSG will hope he won’t be too devastated after Argentina’s 1-0 defeat to Germany, and he is back to his best come the start of August.
The trio of Ibrahimovic, Cavani and Di Maria has the potential to work to devastating effect, but it is going to take time to work.
One thing the Parisian crowd can lack is patience, and for £50 million the home fans will expect results both domestically and in the Champions League.