Di Maria an unsung hero for Argentina

Argentina's Angel di Maria celebrates after scoring the winning goal during the World Cup Round of 16 match versus Switzerland. (Manu Fernandez/AP Photo)

Name: Angel di Maria
Born: Feb. 14, 1988, in Rosario, Argentina
Position: Midfield
Pro club: Real Madrid

2014 FIFA World Cup: Sportsnet.ca is your home for in-depth coverage of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. TV viewers can watch all 64 games on CBC and Sportsnet from June 12 to July 13. Be sure to watch Connected every night on Sportsnet for all of the latest news and analysis. And check out Sportsnet magazine’s team profiles of all 32 nations.

Why is he in the news?

Take your pick. He’s spending his off-season from Real Madrid playing alongside countryman and La Liga rival Lionel Messi in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. He also had a hand in getting Argentina there, knocking home a Messi pass in extra time versus Switzerland in the round of 16 to help the South Americans to a crucial 1–0 victory.

But also, depending on who you talk to he’s either likely bound for Manchester United come transfer season or he’s already on his way. With Real in hot pursuit of Monaco’s James Rodriguez, new United manager Louis van Gaal is reportedly attempting to secure Di Maria and keep him away from Arsenal, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain (pretty much every big club in Europe is linked to him at this point…), who all apparently have interest. The asking price is rumoured to be £40 million.

This is the second year in a row that Di Maria has been rumoured to be on the way out of Madrid, however, so believe it when you see it.

He’s special because

When he’s not playing alongside Messi internationally he’s suiting up with the other most famous soccer player on Earth in Cristiano Ronaldo, so he flies a bit under the radar. But he’s damn good. Whoscored.com applies a statistical formula to give each player a rating out of 10 for each game, and so far at the World Cup Di Maria is averaging 8.21—good for fifth in the entire tournament, and trailing only Messi, Neymar, Rodriguez and Arjen Robben.

Di Maria has notched only the one goal against Switzerland and that saved what was otherwise a lacklustre day as he gave away the ball 51 times and made good on only four of 19 crosses, but he has applied crazy amounts of pressure to the tune of 5.3 shots per through four games. The only reason he hasn’t been named Man of the Match yet at the World Cup is because he plays with the Man of All Matches From Here to Eternity. But hey, he’s almost a year younger than Messi, so he’s got that on him.

Club career

He started his career at 17 for Rosario Central in the Argentine Primera Division and jumped to Benfica in 2007. Real Madrid acquired him in 2010, and he’s made 124 La Liga and 39 Champions League appearances since. This past season he scored four goals and a big-five European league–leading 17 assists in 34 games of regular-season play, and added three goals and five assists as his team won the European Cup.

International career

He’s appeared in 51 games with the Argentine national side since 2008, but his big international breakout—and the tournament performance that likely spurred his move to Benfica—came on Canadian soil at the U20 World Cup.

As Sportsnet’s John Molinaro puts it, “Di Maria was a sparkplug for Argentina in Canada, pulling the creative strings in midfield and finding the back of the net three times as the albicelestes repeated as world champions.”

His most famous moment

You could give it to his recent strike in the round of 16, but back in 2008 he scored the only goal of the Olympic gold medal game between Argentina and Nigeria. So that was kind of big.

Here’s an interesting fact

Di Maria’s move to Real Madrid from Benfica was announced during the 2010 World Cup and now he’s likely going to move again as of this year’s tourney. He should probably hire movers before heading to Russia in 2018.

He said it

“Adrenaline, desire, endless desire… Every time I wear the shirt I’ll give everything. Whatever people say and for whatever they criticize me. I’ll never give 95 percent or 99 percent, always 100 percent. When you do this, you get your rewards in the end.”

What they’re saying about him (or, you know, his goal)

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.