As Old Trafford regulars await the first sight of their new No 7 this afternoon, the view back at Angel Di Maria’s hometown club, Rosario Central, is that he has everything it takes to become a Manchester United hero.
Di Maria will follow a famous line of United No 7s and, according to Alberto Gomez, his coach in Rosario’s junior teams, the 25-year-old is ready to shine in the shirt worn by Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. “I have no doubt because I see him getting better and better, with the desire and determination to be the figure he wants to be – the best in the world,” he tells the Independent on Sunday.
Rosario may also be Lionel Messi’s home city but Argentina shirts with his name were outnumbered by Di Maria ones during the World Cup and Gomez says the evidence of his performance in Argentina’s 4-2 victory over Germany at the start of the month shows the player he has become. “He’s a player who takes charge. He has trust in his ability and is brave as well as skilful. He will confront anything. He almost won the game against Germany on his own.”
It was a performance that came in a right attacking role rather than the left-wing, where he played for Gomez between 13 and 15. The player was only six when Central spotted him playing for El Torito, a club who famously agreed to let him move on in return for 26 footballs.
What Gomez, now co-ordinator for the club’s youth department, remembers above all of the skinny winger, is his love of dribbling. “As a boy you could see he had a special ability – he loved to dribble. He was born with this skill and he put it to use every time he got the ball. He was a very quiet boy and very obedient. We never had any problems with him.”
And on the football pitch he was transformed. “He was a daring player,” said Gomez. “He would win games on his own, he would dribble past a lot of players and score goals – like he does today
“He always wanted the ball. There are players who are there as intermediaries, they get the ball and give it. He wanted to get it and dribble and score goals. On top of that he was a really good passer; he was excellent at providing assists.”
Di Maria did just that on his senior debut aged 17 in a 2-2 draw at Sergio Aguero’s Independiente; he came off the bench and provided the cross for a late equaliser. Gomez was not surprised. After all this is a player that, in Spanish, he describes as desequilibrante. “He unbalances the opposition and he adapted straight away in the top division. Some players with real talent have come through here but Angel has shown he is ready for elite football and to be the best in the world. I have no doubt a special player came out of Rosario Central.”Reuse content