Former Barcelona and Valencia midfielder Gaizka Mendieta has defended Angel Di Maria’s £59.7 million transfer fee, following his long-rumoured switch from Real Madrid to Manchester United.
The winger moved to Madrid in 2010 from Benfica and made a total of 190 appearances for the Spanish side, scoring 36 goals and assisting 72 during his four seasons at the Bernabeu, before helping the team to their 10th European title - 'La Decima' – with a 4-1 extra-time win over rivals Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.
However, despite his starring performances for the La Liga outfit, people have continued to claim that United have overspent for Di Maria, citing Cesc Fabregas, for example, who earlier this summer cost Chelsea just half of what the club shelled out for the Argentina international.
Nevertheless, Mendieta, who himself made a sizeable £29 million move from Valencia to Lazio in 2001, stresses that the 26-year-old midfielder comes to Manchester having already proven himself at the top of the game, but believes it will take time before we can judge whether he is worth the British-record transfer fee.
‘I think time will tell. It’s hard to say how much a player is worth until he proves it,’ he told Sky Sports News HQ. ‘In football you pay for what a player has done or what he’s going to do. Di Maria has done a lot and he is worth what a club will pay.
‘He has proven that for Real Madrid, even though [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Gareth] Bale and [Karim] Benzema were there. The player who Real Madrid could miss the most this season is Di Maria.’
With first-hand experience of working under Louis van Gaal at Barca in 2002, Mendieta also revealed the reasons why Di Maria will prove the prefect player for the new United boss’s lineup.
‘One thing that van Gaal likes is obviously that he can play in different positions,’ he added. ‘He can play in a 4-3-3 or 3-4-1-2, either centrally or in the wide positions, and he could even play as a striker, so that adds value as well.
‘If we all remember the World Cup, obviously you’ve got Messi, but Di Maria was the one who was unlocking the opposing teams, creating chances for Argentina as well, so I can see him doing a similar job for Manchester United, and obviously that’s where the money is.
‘He’s not a player who’s going to score 25 goals, but he’s definitely going to help this side get back to where they want to be.’
Penning a five-year contract worth £200,000-per-week, Di Maria arrives in Manchester to lofty expectations and, with United struggling again at the start of the season, the pressure will be on him to produce from the get-go.
That said, having lead Europe’s assists chart outright with 17 during the 2013-14 campaign, there’s a solid chance of him making an immediate impact upon his introduction.