Angel Di Maria latest: Manchester United target is Real Madrid's 'best player', says Diego Simeone

Praise for the winger came following last night's Spanish Super Cup first leg between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid that ended 1-1

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The Independent Football

The future of Real Madrid midfielder Angel Di Maria may still be unclear but Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone thinks Los Blancos would be foolish to let his fellow countryman leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Argentine has been linked with a move away from the Spanish capital throughout the summer with Manchester United and Paris St. Germain both reported to be interested in signing the former Benfica man before the summer transfer window closes.

The 26-year-old replaced Luka Modric for the final 15 minutes of the Spanish Super Cup first leg between Madrid and Atletico on Tuesday night, which finished 1-1, and Simeone says his introduction helped give Carlo Ancelotti's team an edge in a largely lacklustre derby clash at the Bernabeu.

"Di Maria is Madrid's best player for sure," said Simeone with a wry smile. "His ability to unbalance games helps everyone else to play well.” He added: “The game went more as we wanted than they did. In the first half we had three or four good chances and in the second half they were better with Di Maria." His comments came unprompted in the post-match press conference and he confirmed his thoughts when asked about them moments later.

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The Atleti manager may well have been stirring the pot ahead of Friday's return leg at the Vicente Calderon in light of Madrid boss Ancelotti reportedly wanting to keep the midfielder and club executives keen to cash-in to allow for a possible move for Monaco's Colombian forward Falcao.

Paris were on the verge of signing Di Maria earlier this summer but were unable to complete a deal due to Financial Fair Play rules. That has paved the way for United, who are keen to bolster a struggling squad with world-class arrivals and are reported to be readying a bid of £50m for the player.

The arrivals of World Cup stars Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, who became the first Colombian to score for Madrid, and did so on his debut in Tuesday night's stalemate, have left Ancelotti with an embarrassment of riches in midfield but the Italian is understood to be keen on keeping a player who collected the man-of-the-match honours in last season's Champions League final.


The Madrid manager would not comment on Simeone's thoughts on the player, however, and said he will continue to use the Argentine as he sees fit. "As I have said many times Di Maria is a Madrid player," he said. "I will use him as I think of using him, nothing else."

The Bernabeu crowd certainly had their say on matters with a huge cheer for the Argentine upon his introduction. He, along with Rodriguez, helped to spark what had been a largely sluggish game into life. Rodriguez, who took the World Cup Golden Boot trophy for his six-goal haul in Brazil this summer, prodded home from close range with just nine minutes left. The goal looked set to give Madrid a big advantage going into Friday's second leg, especially with away goal counting, but Raul Garcia was left unmarked from a corner to level matters for the visitors with three minutes to go.

Raul Garcia brings Atletico Madrid level in the Spanish Super Cup


Di Maria also provided a stand-out performance for Los Blancos on Saturday night in their final friendly of the summer against Fiorentina in Poland and could play from the start when Madrid make the short trip to the Vicente Calderon on Friday night. Los Blancos play their first La Liga match just three days later at home against newly-promoted Cordoba.

While the Argentine started, Sami Khedira's Madrid future was flung into doubt with the German World Cup winner not even named on the bench for the match. The former Stuttgart man has been linked with moves to Premier League duo Arsenal and Chelsea as well as Bayern Munich and his omission from Ancelotti's matchday squad suggests a move is in the offing.


Cristiano Ronaldo's chances of featuring in the return leg are in doubt after the Portuguese forward failed to come out for the second half owing to a strain in his left leg. The 29-year-old has endured injury problems in his left knee since April and although Ancelotti played down any fears over the former Manchester United man's latest injury issues, he will be a doubt for Friday. "Cristiano had strain and was not comfortable," he said. "We will do the tests tomorrow. At first it does not seem so serious.”

Ronaldo looked to have put any concerns over his injury problems behind him with an impressive performance against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup in Cardiff last week. The forward shone and scored both goals in Madrid's 2-0 victory and also notched another in Saturday's friendly against Fiorentina. His latest setback will be a concern for the club with the new season now underway.