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.
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.
The 10 biggest transfers that could still happen
The 10 biggest transfers that could still happen
1/10 Radamel Falcao - Manchester United
Despite missing more than six months with injury, the Colombian striker remains one of the hottest properties in Europe. Falcao had been linked with a move to Real Madrid, but Arsenal and Manchester City had been linked with a move on deadline day for the striker. Enter Manchester United, who pulled off the shock of the summer after a season-long loan was agreed in principle with a view to a permanent deal.
2/10 Sami Khedira - Arsenal/Chelsea
Will he, won’t he, will he, won’t he? Sami Khedira is clearly surplus to requirements at Real Madrid after the arrival of Toni Kroos but his wage demands and fee seem to be getting in the way of a resolution. He is a fantastic player and would be a major coup if he were to arrive at either London club, but this transfer will probably rumble on until deadline day
3/10 Edinson Cavani - Liverpool
Another striker unhappy in Ligue 1, Cavani scored 25 goals for PSG last season but is reported to be unhappy playing second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Paris. PSG don’t want to sell, but Brendan Rodgers is looking at the top end of the market to replace Luis Suarez and could spend big on Cavani or Falcao
4/10 Mehdi Benatia - Manchester United
The classy Moroccan centre-back would perfectly fit the profile as one of the back three in Louis van Gaal's system. The Roma man, believed to be available for about £30m, is very good on the ball, an excellent athlete and a fierce competitor. He is comfortable taking the ball forward and is a threat at set-pieces
5/10 Arturo Vidal - Mancester United
This potential transfer seems to have been rumbling on all summer but appears unlikely. Vidal is supposedly keen on a move and a midfielder of Vidal’s quality would be an upgrade over United’s current crop, but Louis van Gaal is believed to have doubts about the Chilean’s knee
6/10 Petr Cech - Real Madrid/PSG
Jose Mourinho wants Cech to stay in west London but the giant goalkeeper is too good to waste his away on the Chelsea bench. Real Madrid, Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain seem the likeliest destinations for the 32-year-old, who is still one of the very, very best in the world
7/10 Mats Hummels - Manchester United
Again, this deal appeared to be dead after Jurgen Klopp said he had no intention to sell and made the World Cup hero his club captain. But rumours for the German centre-back continue to swirl and given United’s defensive woes – Tyler Blackett is not the answer – a huge bid could tempt the Bundesliga side
8/10 Marco Reus - Various
One of the world’s best young players, Reus is being linked with just about every major European club. Manchester United and Liverpool appear to be leading the race in England, but Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and several other clubs would be delighted with the youngster. Reus’ cheap release clause, the cause of all the speculation, doesn’t take effect until next summer, so a big bid may tempt Dortmund to sell now
9/10 Victor Valdes - Liverpool
The former Barcelona goalkeeper is looking for a new club as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury that forced him out of the World Cup. Liverpool are looking for a new goalkeeper after letting go of Pepe Reina, and Valdes would certainly provide competition for No 1 Simon Mignolet should he regain full fitness.
10/10 Danny Welbeck - Arsenal/Tottenham
The England international is a target for a number of Premier League clubs, but Manchester United are reluctant to strengthen a potential top-four rival with his departure. As a result, any destination will have to cough up a £5m just to take him on loan, while a permanent deal could be largely inflated given his homegrown status.
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.
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