This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Speaking to The Athletic, Chris Smalling has hailed former Manchester United man Angel Di Maria as “one of the best players I’ve ever seen”.
The 31-year-old arrived in a £59.7m deal from La Liga giants Real Madrid, but failed to deliver on all the hype and expectation that surrounded his move to Old Trafford.
The Argentina international managed four goals and 12 assists across all competitions, but only stayed at the club for the duration of one season. The winger has now revived his career at French side Paris Saint-Germain, and he has registered an impressive 76 goals and 77 assists in 195 appearances in total.
Now, Smalling has opened up on his ex-teammate’s abilities, and admitted a sense of regret that the Argentine couldn’t make a success of it at Old Trafford.
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He said: “This might surprise you but Angel Di Maria was one of the best players I’ve ever seen. It ended sourly, but when he first signed he looked incredible.
“He did it on the field at the start too, he chipped a goal at Leicester and I thought he would take us to the next level. All of us watched him and thought ‘we just need to get him the ball and he’ll do something special’.
“It’s a shame it ended for him so quickly at Old Trafford, that he has been considered a flop because he’s a great player.”
Having been a consistently impressive performer in his time at Real Madrid, seeing Di Maria not carve out a long and successful Old Trafford career is a crying shame. The Argentine played 190 times for Los Blancos and provided an unbelievable 85 assists. As a flying winger, the 31-year-old seemed like the perfect United player.
The indoor football skills in the video below have to be seen to be believed…
He had an internationally recognised reputation, and some of the technical characteristics that the Old Trafford faithful had come to watch and love with the likes of Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo. Di Maria’s searing directness and excellent dribbling abilities – he has an impressive career average of 1.6 dribbles and 2.4 shots per game – is the kind of edge-of-your-seat action that United fans would have loved to have seen on a regular basis.
Instead, they cashed in on the Argentine, when if they had perhaps held their nerve and persuaded him to stay an extra year, may have gotten the peak Di Maria they initially hoped they were getting.