The MSR advent calendar: Our favorite signings that never happened: Door 6 – Angel di Maria
This text was written by guest author Florian Papenfuhs. Florian has already been an intern at Sky Sport and 11Freunde and is looking to continue working as a sports journalist.
Even if Müller has rediscovered his football genius since last season, a departure in 2015 would arguably have been accepted by quite a few fans (myself not excluded). To find a suitable replacement for him, it would not even have been necessary to talk to another club.
Angel Di Maria was considered a flop at Manchester United in 2015. Fhey had paid €75m to Real Madrid for the Argentinean a year earlier. Di Maria’s figures were not catastrophic (16 goals in 33 matches), but they were not considered worth anywhere near that much money. In the season’s first half he missed six games after an injury, and in the second half he was increasingly moved to the bench by Louis van Gaal, a well-known coach at Bayern. There was no trace left of the wiry winger who had won the Champions League with Real Madrid. A failed star at a world club – a situation all too familiar to FC Bayern from the Robben transfer.
FC Bayern had played exciting football during the season and won the championship by the end of April. But there was no real euphoria. Pep Guardiola’s ensemble played out of this world in the Champions – 7-1 against Roma, 7-0 against Shakthar, 6-1 against Porto – but FC Barcelona was the first opponent at eye level, and they proved a step to far. Domestically, it looked as if a new competitor had arisen in VfL Wolfsburg. Kevin de Bruyne’s team even won the DFB-Pokal, while Bayern had been eliminated against Dortmund in the semi-finals.
Ideally, the €120m for Müller would never have been paid out in full, since Di Maria would simultaneously have made a move in the opposite direction and his fee deducted. After countless goals and titles with Bayern, Müller would have left his home looking for a new adventure, and FC Bayern would have received a lot of money as well as his replacement in the same transaction.
Because both players are always very busy on the field, they are versatile and have an elusive slyness that is hard to grasp. Moreover, the lanky build of the two offensive artists seems to bring a certain resistance to injury. Di Maria is not as fabulously indestructible as Müller, but has been out with an injury for more than a month only twice in his career. Especially in the summer of 2015 FC Bayern would have appreciated this quality, as Franck Riberý was nursing a mysterious ankle injury.
On the one hand, Di Maria could have taken over Müller’s role straight away, but on the other hand, he could also have moved out wide with Mario Götze coming through the middle.
Due to his committed nature, “El fideo” might have quickly endeared himself to the Bayern fans. Without Müller, the team’s orientation for the next season would definitely have been different. After the signings of Costa and Coman, Guardiola built up an offensive that worked mainly by getting balls into the penalty area, where Lewandowski and Müller were to convert them.
But Müller is superior to Di Maria in this respect. Di Maria has never been the classic enforcer who reacts faster in the penalty area than the players around him, and in Guardiola’s setup he would probably have found a place on the wing, which would have made the transfer from Coman or Costa obsolete.
Perhaps Pep would also have come up with something very special for his new elite dribbler. Di Maria’s had already demonstrated his ability to execute very special roles on the pitch under Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid, when he supported the ever-evolving Cristiano Ronaldo from central midfield.
The same Ancelotti would probably have become his coach at Bayern a year later, too. In this way, the most prominent perched eyebrow in world football would have had a player on the field from the moment he took office who understood his idea of football perfectly. Who knows how Ancelotti’s career at Bayern might have turned out then.