The decline of Di Maria

Angel Di Maria’s synopsis on refereeing decisions against Real Madrid simply not being ‘errors’ echoed around Spain yesterday. In the process his previous comments explaining his frustration at being left out in the cold at the Santiago Bernabeu during the same Press conference ahead of the first leg quarter-final with Valencia in the Copa del Rey were largely been overshadowed.

“I feel very good. I have been working to be at 100 per cent. I’m not playing, but these are technical decisions,” reflected Di Maria.

The Argentine has not featured in an entire La Liga game for the Spanish champions since a narrow victory over Levante at the beginning of November. In storied defeats against Real Betis and Malaga before the winter break, the 24-year-old has been hauled off shortly after the hour mark. Despite openly admitting to being full fit, Coach Jose Mourinho has intervened with ‘technical decisions’.

Following a brief flurry of activity in late September for Los Blancos – which included two assists against Manchester City in the Champions League – the former Benfica man has been enduring a nosedive in form. With only a single strike at home to Zaragoza and a set-up for Karim Benzema against City in the return group match since, the winger has gradually been granted fewer minutes on the pitch.

His direct dribbling abilities and clinical eye for a key pass have been missing for the entire season, but have often at times been disguised by his teammates enduring a similarly lacklustre campaign for Madrid. Compared to his 26 assists in the last two terms, the Rosario native has only notched up one assist domestically this time around, and that was during his patch of strong showings earlier in the season.  

“El Fideo [Di Maria] is an important player, he will try to return to the level he has shown us and I am sure he will be fine,” insisted Gonzalo Higuain recently. The striker leaped to his fellow countryman’s aid when questioned, but the nature of the winger’s unpredictability this season have meant few have followed suit. Being January, his current situation could attract unwanted attention in the market place. 

In the space of six months, Di Maria has gone from signing a contract extension with Madrid until 2018 and claiming Mourinho was the ‘best tactician’ he has met, to being restricted in playing time in crucial encounters. The outing tonight against Valencia will prove crucial to his immediate future at the club, and depending on his performance could completely reverse his position at the present moment.