The Angel With Small Beginnings

Manchester United this week against all odds landed a world class player in Ángel Fabián Di María Hernández for a British record fee of £59.7M, ending a long saga of speculations and berating of the Glazer family and Ed Woodward, the under fire Executive Vice-Chairman who gained notoriety for his ineptitude at the transfer market last summer where he couldn’t seal any significant transfer deal but ended up bringing in an overpaid caricature with loads of hair like a sheep that has never been sheared. That probably led to United’s woeful performance last season which ensured that they ended up 7th in the league and failed to qualify for the Champions League, the first time in 19 years.

Louis Van Gaal (LVG) gave a glimmer of hope when he took over the affairs in Manchester, having glided the Oranje to a successful outing at the Brazil 2014 World Cup without losing a game in regulation time and ending up with a bronze medal. He even became a buzzword with his seeming impeccable 3-5-2 system after the successful preseason that had him ace the likes of FC Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool and clinch the Intercontinental cup. However we all know that life has not been the same since the  Barclays Premier League started and the steely philosopher is still awaiting his first victory in a competitive situation. Now every player in the world is linked to Manchester United and thankfully some are actually finding their way to Old Trafford, albeit with extortionate figures: Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and now, Angel Di María, all costing a whooping sum of £131.7m.

But there is something fascinating about the latest recruit—Angel Di María or Fideo (noodle) as he’s fondly called( because of his skinny physique) beyond the fact that he is a fiery winger who will leave his detractors on the field to dust and a great team player. So what’s that? It’s still about his transfer! Hey, £59m is no doddle – you could come to this world a hundred times and still don’t make that! Some folks would even argue that he’s overpaid.

All the same, the most touching thing about the transfer, for me, comes when you realize the story of the small beginnings that coloured the Argentine’s path. Here was a guy who was reared by Miguel and Diana in Rosario’s district of Perdriel, just like Lionel Messi and joined the Rosario Central Club at the age of 7 only for 30 balls! Fideo’s father, Miguel, was a decent footballer too but as fate would have it, his dream career with River Plate was shattered by a knee injury that diverted him to the coal yard where he toiled for 16 years with a small wage. His son, Di Maria who had to put up with his two sisters in a room had to keep faith with football to get him out of the manacles of poverty.

His first move to Europe was in 2007 when he moved to Benfica for what now seems a paltry fee of €8 million. Di María renewed his contract in 2009 with the club and despite the €40m clause in his contract, it won’t be long before he will depart for Real Madrid with a contract of €25 million, with €11 million in incentives.

Fideo has 52 caps for Argentina with 10 caps and won the Olympic gold medal with Argentina in where he scored the winning goal against Nigeria (my country!).

So what does Ángel Fabián Di María Hernández teach me? It tells me that if I’m talented and I work hard (with a bit of luck!), then  I’ll be signed for £100M  the likelihood is that I’ll succeed someday. I hope Di María will not capitulate under the weight the record signing will place on him, but whatever happens, he’s made history and I wonder the feelings he and those who knew his humble beginnings will be feeling right now. I wish him and Manchester United all the best.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

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