Done? Good. This article is a follow up to Dennis' piece, and it focuses on some pretty astounding numbers from one astounding player. Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria might be one of the world's most underrated players. This year, he is having one of the best statistical seasons on record so far--and almost no one is talking about it.
Let me explain why:Listen, there are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about my premise for this article. I know. He's a really well-known player, spends his time roaming the left and right wings of the Santiago Bernabeu for José Mourinho, and has been around since he was a teenager in two of the best leagues in the world. Plus, he makes that heart thing with his hands when he scores, which is, like, totally cute.
But this season might be his best year ever (and might be one of the best on record for a Madrid winger), even if no one is talking about it. And there are a couple of good reasons for that: first, he has only played 12 games (15 if you count substitute appearances) out of a possible 25; second, his presence in the starting lineup comes at Kaká's expense (and Kaká is absolutely beloved by his fans); and third, well, Dennis already talked about a certain prolific Portuguese winger-striker.
Let's take a gander at some of Angel's numbers this season: in 15 total games (12 starts, three substitute appearances), Di Maria has created 18 goals (a statistic I created, though it's not that complicated--goals created (GC) = goals (G) + assists (A)). He averages 1.2 GC per match, a better rate than Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Kaká, Mesut Özil, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, and every other player in la Liga not named Cristiano or Lionel (who, incidentally, are tied at 37 GC each). He only takes slightly more than two shots per game (Cristiano takes north of six, and Messi more than five).
He's leading la Liga in assists (13), despite playing nine fewer matches than his nearest competitors. In fact, and here's some huge news: Angel Di Maria is leading all players in the major European leagues in assists. Seriously.
If we extrapolate his numbers to the end of the season, Di Maria would have 30 GC so far (22 assists, 8 goals). These are incredible, extraterrestrial numbers. And the kicker? He has literally been exactly as good at home as he has been on the road.
There are some caveats that we should consider now. First, he plays in a fast-paced system that was basically tailored to him, so his stats could be inflated by that. But that didn't stop basketball star Steve Nash (playing under Mike D'Antoni in Phoenix) from winning the MVP. Second, there's no reason to think that Di Maria would have continued at this level if he hadn't been injured. Perhaps the injuries have made him especially insatiable and intent on scoring. But that doesn't diminish his per-game numbers, which are absolutely staggering.
Finally - and this might be the real indicator of his value - he completes 1.7 tackles per game, which is more than Raphaël Varane (1.5), more than double Cristiano Ronaldo's total (0.6) and quadruple Kaká's total (0.4). Plus, he intercepts a ball per game, which, again, is more than any other offensive player on the team--except Xabi Alonso, who is actually really good at defense (2.2 interceptions and three tackles per game).
Listen, I'm not saying Di Maria is the best player in the world. What I am saying is that his per-game stats suggest that he might be some day. And that, MM'ers, is what Real Madrid is missing while he's injured.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.
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