The exact financials are yet to be agreed upon, but by the time the “i’s” are dotted, “t’s” crossed and signatures attached to the necessary documents, Angel Di Maria’s move from Real Madrid to Manchester United will have become one of the most expensive pieces of business in football history.
Still conflicting claims re the fee (anywhere between £60m and £68m) but Angel Di Maria should be a Man Utd player by tomorrow evening #mufc— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) August 25, 2014
Marca, having pegged the initial transfer fee at €75 million, on Monday reported an additional €15 million would be built into the transaction as bonuses, bringing the final price for the Argentine to a British-record €90 million.
Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed the deal “is almost done,” as per AS, and over the weekend the Madrid manager thanked the 26-year-old for his contributions to the club, which included a Man of the Match performance in last spring’s Champions League final victory that secured La Decima for the capital outfit.
Di Maria at £60m, if completed, would become 5th most expensive footballer ever, and the 22nd ever confirmed at £35m+ pic.twitter.com/zIUIwwaXZa— sportingintelligence (@sportingintel) August 24, 2014
Crucially, it was Di Maria’s switch from the wing to midfield—a change inspired at club level by former Madrid assistant Zinedine Zidane—that both accommodated the arrival of Gareth Bale and turned Madrid into the unstoppable machine they became in the second half of the season.
He then enjoyed a very good World Cup, and it’s arguable that Argentina teammate Lionel Messi’s lack of effectiveness in the final against Germany was largely due to Di Maria's absence through injury.
Di Maria, after all, is one of football’s foremost linking players—a versatile, manoeuvrable playmaker who will spring a winger with an inch-perfect pass in one piece of buildup and take the ball downfield in the next.
He’s a transitional expert, a connector. And given the laboured nature of United’s attacking play, he’s exactly what the struggling Premier League giants need.
He is, as AS columnist Alfredo Relano wrote on Monday, an “all-action” midfielder with the ability to “unbalance defenses.” If Madrid were so willing to part with him, Relano added, it was because he didn’t sell shirts.
Interesting line from the respected Alfredo Relano in AS. "There's no money to retain Di Maria because he doesn't sell shirts."— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) August 25, 2014
In other words, it wasn’t for footballing reasons that the European champions were so willing to offload one of their best players, and with €120 million spent during the summer transfer period they were under pressure to make a sale anyway.
Even Real Madrid are not impervious to the new realities of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, and Di Maria’s exit should be seen, at least in part, in that context.
38 - Since August 2011, only Messi & Özil (39 each) have more goal assists than Angel di Maria in the top 5 European leagues. Heavenly.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 25, 2014
According to Relano, there is little else about the transfer that makes sense for Los Blancos, whose current approach, he claims, “was conceived from neon lights and not footballing logic.”
United, meanwhile, address an obvious need in securing the services of the former Benfica and Rosario Central man, whose preference for Old Trafford may well serve to recast the Red Devils as an exciting project so conceived by new manager Louis van Gaal.
According to The Telegraph, each of Nigel de Jong, Arturo Vidal and Daley Blind are thought to be next on Van Gaal’s wishlist, and with Di Maria under wraps, the likelihood of at least one more signing of some significance suddenly becomes more realistic.
Angel di Maria, Real Madrid 13-14, CM template. HUGE creative output, huge scoring contrib, and some defensive work pic.twitter.com/roiaVRuy9o— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 25, 2014
United are set to break the bank for Di Maria, whose acquisition will represent the club’s most meaningful investment of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Is he worth it?
Absolutely and unequivocally, yes.