PSG’s double-header clash against Real Madrid is the perfect time for Angel di Maria to gain revenge on a club that discarded him in the past
Lisbon – May 24th 2014: After snatching an injury-time equaliser, Real Madrid are in extra-time against city rivals Atlético with the Champions League title on the line. With the Atleti defence tiring, Angel Di María picks the ball up on the left and races away from three. His effort on goal is saved by Thibaut Courtois but Gareth Bale heads the decisive second goal as Real go on to win 4-1 and lift a historic tenth European cup.
Di María would be named Man of the Match that evening but three months later departed the Santiago Bernabeú for Manchester United.
On Wednesday evening, the Argentinian returns with a rampant Paris Saint-Germain side to face a struggling Madrid in the Champions League last 16 and Di María could scarcely be in better form.
Quite the turnaround for a player, who after leaving Manchester under a cloud following just one disappointing season, had only shown glimpses of his quality and was reportedly on the verge of being discarded by PSG.
The big money arrivals of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were supposed to be the death-knell on Di María’s career in Paris. The Argentinian had more often than not been the source of frustration that has been evident at international level and at almost every club – capable of the truly remarkable and the absolutely hopeless in the space of a few moments.
The same cannot be said this season. 29 appearances show just how much of a regular Di María has been despite falling down the pecking order and El Fideo’s form in 2018 has been nothing short of sensational – nine goals and six assists in eleven games is a greater return than any other PSG player.
“I have started the year on a really good level and I am very happy,” a modest Di María told reporters.
And it is due to this form that Di María will likely play a key role in the Bernabeú on Wednesday.
Even the competition, Kylian Mbappe believes the Argentinian must start against his former club: ”We all know very well how important Di Maria is to us,” the young French forward said.
“When he is in this form, it’s good for the whole team and it allows us to win a few games in a row. He deserves to start against Real Madrid, but I’m not the coach. He does some beautiful things. It’s great for everyone.”
Unai Emery will surely keep faith in Di María as PSG aim to finally get their hands on the Champions League title. With the Ligue 1 title almost in the bag already, The Parisians are desperate to capture European football’s biggest prize to truly announce themselves as equals to the likes of Madrid and Barcelona.
The famous collapse against Barça at this same stage last season still lingers in the memory but Di María told PSG’s official website: “We’re stronger than last season.”
The 12-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 would certainly suggest so and while Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe might take the headlines, no one has been more impressive than Di María since the turn of the year.
The man who Real president Florentino Pérez didn’t really think suited the club could play a crucial role in what could be a nightmare campaign for Los Blancos.