Why James Rodriguez Will Benefit Most from Angel Di Maria's Real Madrid Exit

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

As Angel Di Maria's switch to Manchester United neared on Tuesday, Marca's Marcos Lopez proclaimed that "Real Madrid are the only short-term winners" in the Argentinian's move to Old Trafford.

Citing the record price paid by Louis van Gaal's outfit (£59.7 million per the BBC) and the lack of Champions League football available to Di Maria at United, Lopez's position—while rather simplistic—is understandable.

But that view is also wide of the mark: There isn't just one winner to emerge from Tuesday's seismic transfer, there are many.

Van Gaal, Ed Woodward, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and several million Manchester United supporters will all benefit from Di Maria's switch. Nike, Chevrolet and other key sponsors will also be buoyed by the news.

Yet, perhaps no one will benefit from Di Maria's move to north-west England more than James Rodriguez.

When the Colombian arrived at the Bernabeu thanks largely to Real's impulsive president Florentino Perez, he was immediately pitted against the now-departed Argentinian.

Rodriguez, remember, is a precocious No. 10, while Di Maria is the converted midfielder who made such a position redundant for Carlo Ancelotti. Each man, therefore, couldn't truly thrive in the other's presence—their respective needs and skills far from compatible for the Italian manager. 

Money is an all-powerful force in the modern game, though. Signed as a World Cup Golden Boot winner for £63 million, the financial commitment in Rodriguez demanded his prominent involvement.

And while the 23-year-old had "always dreamed" of pulling on the iconic white shirt, displacing a fan favourite, the club's Champions League final hero and the player responsible for making Ancelotti's flowing system work was probably not what he had in mind. 

The pressure and discomfort of such a situation cannot be underestimated.

Perez, of course, has always been detached from such issues, the inner workings of a squad not relevant to his quest for notoriety. 

"Unfortunately, my football isn't to someone's taste," Di Maria wrote in an open letter in Marca to explain his move to Real Madrid fans.

Perez, it seems, is that someone. 

Indeed, one could easily draw comparisons between the sale of Di Maria and that of Claude Makelele more than a decade ago, pointing to the balance offered by each player and how such a commodity is too frequently disregarded by the president.  

In that sense, Di Maria's departure stands as a significant loss for Real Madrid. But the 26-year-old's transfer will also aid Rodriguez's integration, quelling the possibility of a distracting, season-long storyline, simplifying Ancelotti's systematic decisions and removing the thought from the Colombian's head that his presence is detrimental to a star team-mate. 

In Di Maria's absence, Los Blancos are now better-suited to the 4-2-3-1 shape that best harnesses Rodriguez's talent. Like Mesut Ozil before him, Real's latest Galactico could shine in his preferred No. 10 role, sitting centrally among an attacking quartet that will also contain Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. 

It's also conceivable that Di Maria's move to the Premier League will allow Real to break away from the neither-here-nor-there position they've found themselves in during recent clashes with Atletico Madrid and Cordoba. 

Caught in the middle ground between a 4-3-3 and a modified 4-4-2, Ancelotti's tired-looking outfit laboured through a trio of matches in the space of a week.

Lacking the dynamism and cohesion associated with the team last term while trying to incorporate Rodriguez, the continental champions have appeared out of sync and off-balance in the shape once made lethal by Di Maria's midfield presence. 

Again, Perez's chase of an elusive and unattainable perfection had disrupted his club's on-field progress, complicating—until now—his manager's task, blurring the clarity achieved in the final months of last season.

But if there is a positive to Perez's latest round of impetuous business, it's that Real are now in a position where juggling the team's approach to accommodate conflicting talents isn't necessary; Ancelotti is no longer faced with the paradox of the club's marquee signing unsettling his team's equilibrium.

Suddenly, Di Maria's exit—while lamentable—has removed an uneasiness for Ancelotti, untangling the almost impossible selection conundrum he faced. 

Rodriguez, who was directly competing with Di Maria, stands as the most obvious beneficiary of that. 



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