His move to PSG seemingly drawing near, did Angel Di Maria's ill-fated stint with Manchester United makes him the worst ever Premier League signing?
Last summer, newly established Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal was tasked with restoring the club back to the top four following a disastrous campaign under predecessor David Moyes. To that end, the Dutchman proceeded to go on an immense spending spree, purchasing world class players and established Premier League stars in order to push them back up the table and place them back into the Champions League.
Manchester United would spend a grand total of around £145 million on improving their squad, and Van Gaal did triumph in his goal of elevating the club back to the elite in English football. The additions of Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Marcus Rojo and Luke Shaw enjoyed varying degrees of success in pushing the Red Devils into a fourth place finish, alongside the already existing names in their squad. Overall, this was an excellent first season in the Premier League for Van Gaal, and he achieved the goal set at the beginning of the campaign.
Yet, there was one serious blunder in the transfer market that, although would not derail Manchester United’s rise up the table, still took an immense chunk out of their resources for virtually no return. £60 million was spent on purchasing Argentinian playmaker Angel Di Maria from Read Madrid. The player fell down the pecking order of the then-European Champions following the arrivals of James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, in spite of being named Man of the Match in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.
And immediately, this seemed like a superb piece of business, as his range of passing, close control and speedy dribbling proved very useful assets against the Premier League defences. Di Maria was given the legendary United number 7, held by greats such as Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, and was justifying that legacy early on. He scored a goal and provided an assist in three of his first four games, including a glorious chip in the 5-3 defeat to Leicester City.
But, this was a false dawn for a player that would prove nothing more than a disappointment. Not that this is entirely Di Maria’s fault. He suffered an injury that kept him out for virtually all of December, whilst his international commitments dragged him across the world on numerous occasions. Plus, due to Van Gaal’s constant tinkering with the squad and formation meant that in his first 16 appearances, the Argentinian took up six different positions on the pitch.
His form was then hurt with these variables, as the second half of the season Di Maria spent a lot of time on the bench as Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata established themselves as the midfield unit. His mental state was also hurt after burglars attempted to raid his house in February, which is likely at the forefront of his decision to leave the club more than any footballing reason. Di Maria is now expected to leave Manchester United after only one season, and move to the likely destination of PSG.
Even with all of the factors that played against him, this will undoubtedly place Angel Di Maria into the infamous hall of Premier League flops for his season of predominantly disappointment and impotence. However, due to the immense outlay of cash to procure his services, with Di Maria the most expensive signing in the league’s quarter of a century lifespan, does that place him on the mantel of THE worst ever transfer?
Unfortunately, that answer is yes. People could look towards Andriy Shevchenko, Juan Sebastian Veron and Roberto Soldado with the argument that they had less effectual seasons with their respective clubs, and that is a reasonable debate. However, they cost half of the price of bringing Di Maria to Manchester United, and they certainly did not have half the impact. Obviously, the transfer market has become much more expensive, with players once worth £20-30 million now costing upwards of £40 million.
But Di Maria was purchased for a level of money that has only been superseded by four other players, all of which have proven far more pivotal for their clubs’ success than the Argentinian midfielder. Maybe if he had determined to stay for another year he could easily have redeemed these statistics, as there is no denying his technical qualities and eye for a pass. I definitely see his Manchester United tenure as more of a blip, and not a signal of him declining, as I genuinely rate him as one of the most talented footballers in world football today.
Di Maria also provided ten assists to his team’s cause, showing that he was not simply taking up space in the team sheet. Yet, when such an expenditure is made on a signing, they are expected to accelerate the team’s triumphs and win games on their own, and he was not up to that task. The fact he only started 20 games in the league and scored a measly three goals shows that by the end of the campaign, he was surplus to requirements.
And that is a position a £60 million player should never find himself in, let alone after only one year.