He is reportedly the target of leading Premier League clubs, including Manchester City and Chelsea, but exactly who is Angel Di Maria? Di Maria has had a rapid rise to prominence since he made his senior debut for his local club Rosario Central in Argentina in 2005. As a talented, quick left winger, he was quickly brought to the attention of many European sides. Russian side Rubin Kazan were interested in the player and at the start of 2007 terms were agreed with the young Argentinean to move to Russia. The player however had a change of heart and continued to play for Rosario until the end of the season.
The star rose further when he played for Argentina in the 2007 FIFA U20 World Cup in Canada. He scored three goals during the championship, playing alongside the likes of striker Sergio Aguero. Rumours began to fly around again about a move to Europe and according to News of the World, Di Maria had been very close to moving to Arsenal. Di Maria stated:
I don’t know exactly what happened with my proposed transfer to Arsenal. I was very excited about joining them but it never happened. From what I’ve been told, the transfer money that was supposed to appear, never appeared.
Benfica quickly pounced for the young Argentinean starlet and he began the 2007/2008 season in the Portuguese league. He had only played 35 games for Rosario Central but the president of the Portuguese club Luis Felipe Vieira exclaimed on his signing for the club that he would be the ideal replacement for winger Simao who had left to join Atletico Madrid the same summer. Di Maria did not seem to wilt under the expectations placed on his shoulders, and began to impress the Portuguese crowds with his outstanding displays.
At the end of his first season with Benfica, he joined up with the Argentina team that was to play in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Along with fellow stars Sergio Aguero, captain Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi, the young side made it all the way to the final where Di Maria scored the winning goal against Nigeria with a magnificent chip over the goalkeeper:
Di Maria became a real star during the tournament, outshining his more illustrious team-mates, scoring two goals and providing two assists during the six matches. He has fantastic pace and is great with the ball at his feet running at defenders, but while he is only of a slight build, like his compatriot Aguero he is extremely difficult to knock off the ball. Mixed with his dribbling, ball control and eye for a spectacular goal, Di Maria strikes fear into opposition defenders, creating havoc and forcing defenders to foul him to stop his irrepressible runs. His preferred position is on the left wing, yet he is not a natural winger as he prefers to cut inside to shoot from long range.
After Beijing, he would not have to wait long before getting his full debut for the national team against Paraguay during a World Cup qualifier in September last year. His second season with Benfica ended winning the Portuguese League Cup and rumours have been abound since about a move for the 21 year old away from Portugal to a bigger club. His performances this season have done nothing to dampen this interest as he played an important role in Benfica’s 5-0 thrashing of Everton, and he has acquired big plaudits from Argentina Manager Diego Maradona:
Angel has the quality to be a worldwide superstar within the next two years. I have always followed his career closely and his level has increased enormously since he’s been in Europe.
A new “worldwide superstar” is high praise indeed from the Argentinean legend and there can be no surprise that there has been interest from the Premier League. Chelsea have been scouting the young Benfica left winger and were rumoured to be willing to make a £15m offer for the player. The Portuguese side are however demanding £35m and it seems that for this price Manchester City are leading the bidding. It remains to be seen whether this new star of world football would be interested in a move to Eastlands.