While he’s yet to dot his two I’s, it’s as certain as low wages at Walmart that Angel di Maria will sign a contract with Paris St Germain in the coming days. Less than 12 months after shelling out a British record £59.7 million for the Argentine Champions League winner, Manchester United are expected to agree to a fee of around £45 million that will see the former Real Madrid midfielder cross the English Channel.
While the near unanimity of the British and French media’s reporting of an imminent deal is probably confirmation enough, it’s the words of the two managers that really show di Maria’s days at Old Trafford are numbered. When asked of his Argentine winger’s whereabouts at a press conference on Friday, Louis van Gaal said he was “not on the plane… I do not know why.” PSG manager Laurent Blanc, however, gave a little more away this weekend: "There is a good possibility (he could sign) but there is nothing official… If he does make a change hopefully it will be for Paris St-Germain."
With his client set to generate over £100 million in combined transfer fees within a tumultuous 12 months, it’s been a great year for Portuguese “Super Agent” Jorge Mendes. But the same can hardly be said for di Maria himself: via one of the most storied clubs in European football, he’s gone from winning La Decima with Real Madrid to the footballing backwaters of France.
It’s a move that baffles on both sides of the coin. While di Maria went through spells of, frankly, sheer uselessness last season, he nevertheless racked up 10 assists and three goals in 20 Premier League starts for United. While that may not justify the lion’s share of £60 million spent, 10 assists is still five more than any other player at Old Trafford created. Shouldn’t Louis van Gaal have tried a little harder to keep and cajole the man he previously described as a “world-class midfielder” with “immense natural talent”?
For di Maria, who has clearly been hankering for a move since the tail-end of 2014-15, are Ligue 1 titles really what he wants to look back fondly upon in his dotage? Does the Argentine really think the likes of Caen, Ajaccio and Guingamp represent the pinnacle of elite soccer, capable of pushing a player of immense talent to the outer edges of his ability?
Football careers are short, and players should rightly make as much money as they can in the relatively brief window their physical abilities allow. But in trading a very healthy salary at Manchester United for a very healthy salary at Paris St Germain, di Maria is shifting into cruise control. At 27, he’s at the height of his powers as a footballer; Ligue 1 is not a fitting arena for a player of such talent.
Ultimately, di Maria’s is a transfer that is highly revealing about the current state of football in Europe: too much money, much too much short-termism, and precious little patience. No player can be deemed a success or failure after a solitary season in a new league and country, just as nobody can convincingly argue that footballing legacies are forged in the tepid warmth of the Parc des Princes.