The Ballon d’Or has caused some controversy in recent years with glaring omissions from shortlists and teams of the year, as well as some bizarre voting patterns and preferential treatment by coaches or players involved in the voting process. So, to try and bring some credibility back to football’s individual honours, we have created The Blog d’Or, where the writers of The Blog FC have whittled down a 50-man longlist to countdown the real best 23 players of the calendar year. The countdown continues here.
The Blog d’Or #8
Angel Di Maria
Real Madrid & Manchester United
He was a World Cup finalist, the Champions League final’s Man of the Match and exactly the type of player you would expect Real Madrid to sign.
Instead, after what was his finest individual season to date, Angel Di Maria was forced out of Real Madrid by club president Florentino Perez as he looked to ring in the next era of Galacticos.
The move outraged Real fans, Di Maria had been instrumental in bringing the club its first Champions League title in 12 years – La Decima, no less – as he racked up three goals and five assists in European competition.
It was the Argentine’s selfless play that typified his 2014, as he finished the season with an outrageous 24 total assists and notched another 15 goals just for good measure.
It wasn’t just with the ball where his team ethic shone through, though.
Deployed on the left of a midfield three, Di Maria was the engine of his team as he worked tirelessly all over the pitch, often clocking up the most kilometres per match.
Sitting in the space behind one of the game’s finest attacking players in Cristiano Ronaldo meant Di Maria was not only responsible for offering support in attack but had to work overtime to cover for Ronaldo’s defensive deficiencies. You’d just as often see him make an overlapping run to the by-line as you would defending near his own corner flag.
His role remained that of a workhorse at the World Cup where he helped Argentina to the Final where they were denied by an extra time winner.
Di Maria was again the driving force of his team, but this time he was given more freedom to explore the pitch as he supported the insatiable Lionel Messi. The two combined for Angel’s only goal of the tournament, a vital last minute winner against Switzerland in the group stage.
Despite his spaghetti-like appearance, Di Maria possess incredible strength on the ball and can accelerate to full speed in a few strides.
Less trickery and more close control best describes his game ,with the ball at his feet means his instinctive style allows him to dribble through a number of opponents in seemingly effortless fashion, while also offering the ability to spray raking cross-field balls to switch play from one wing to the other.
The Argentine’s big money move to Manchester United started brightly as he scored some important goals and notched a few key assists for his new club, but a hamstring injury set him back and combined with being played in a multitude of positions, his performances have stalled of late.
No matter how his current campaign is going, Di Maria’s 2014 was something special and deserving of his place on the Blog d’Or.