New Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal will start work at Old Trafford this week, and one of his first tasks could be to persuade Real Madrid forward Angel Di Maria to sign for the Premier League club.
According to David Anderson of the Daily Mirror, the Argentina international has snubbed an approach from French champions Paris Saint-Germain, and United are eager to snap up the World Cup winger.
However, there is at least one Champions League-shaped stumbling block to any potential deal. Di Maria wants to play in European football's top competition, and United can't offer it.
Van Gaal might be able persuade the 26-year-old that United's absence from the Champions League is temporary and will be quickly rectified this season. Signing a player of Di Maria's calibre would go a long way to making that happen.
At the 2014 World Cup, only Lionel Messi outperformed Di Maria in terms of key passes (3.3 to 2.2) and dribbles (6.6 to 5) per game for the Argentina team, per WhoScored. The forward also chipped in with a goal in five games before a thigh injury ruled him out of the semi-final and final.
Argentina were held 0-0 in both of those games, and it's not too much of a stretch to suggest a player of Di Maria's quality could have tipped the balance in their favour. He's that good.
Chris McKenna of the Daily Star suggests Di Maria is part of a potential triple swoop for Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and Borussia Dortmund's World Cup-winning centre-back Mats Hummels. That level of ambition in the transfer market, plus a £150,000-a-week contract, could help persuade him to sign for United.
Di Maria would provide the pace and guile that was sorely lacking at Manchester United at times last season, and his versatility means he could play as an out-and-out winger or an inside forward.
Essentially, he could function in Van Gaal's United side as Arjen Robben did in his Netherlands team—although Di Maria is rather less selfish than his Dutch counterpart. The Argentine may have only scored four times in La Liga last season, but he provided a league-leading 17 assists.
With the aforementioned duo, plus Shinji Kagawa, offering quality in attacking central positions behind a striker such as Robin van Persie, it is on the flanks, or in the wide forward areas, that United really lack the quality Di Maria can provide.
Adnan Januzaj, at just 19 years old, led the team with four goals and three assists in those areas last season, per WhoScored.
But it's not all about statistics. The capture of Di Maria would also send out a clear statement as to Manchester United's intentions: The rot has stopped, and the rebuilding has begun.
Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw have already arrived at Old Trafford, but the capture of Di Maria would prove the club can still compete in the transfer market for the best players available. As a consequence, they could also compete on the pitch.
A player of Di Maria's quality could be the difference between playing in the Champions League next season and not.
Van Gaal has some smooth talking to do.
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