Manchester United have signed Argentine attacker Angel Di Maria for a British record fee of £59.7 million from European champions Real Madrid but how does the 26-year-old compare to Arsenal signing Alexis Sanchez?
The Gunners’ Chilean forward is one year Di Maria’s junior and the pair have been bitter rivals in La Liga for the past three years since Sanchez arrived in Catalonia. Arguably Di Maria is closer to his peak, as evidenced by his superb performance in the Champions League final last term but is he worth almost twice as much as Alexis?
Sanchez cost £32 million from Barcelona with whom he won one La Liga title, the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. Di Maria won all of the above except the latter but he added the Champions League title to his honours list in May this year.
Both signings will need to adapt to the Premier League – both have played in other European leagues as well as in South America but the Premier League will be their biggest physical challenge yet with its intensity, pace and schedule unlike any other league in the world.
Their CVs are close enough in terms of honour and credentials but which of the pair has performed most consistently?
They played exactly the same number of games last season – 27 starts and seven appearances from the bench each – Di Maria scored four goals and made 17 assists for Real Madrid and Alexis scored 19 goals and made 10 assists for Barcelona. It’s clear that Sanchez is the more dangerous finisher and Di Maria the more effective provider but, even so, one would expect him to score more goals for nearly £60 million paid by United.
However, Di Maria has better technical quality and vision in his passing, evidenced by his 82.1 per cent pass completion rate to Sanchez’ 79.7% rate. The pair made exactly the same number of shot per game on average last term, 1.9 per game, but Alexis’ conversion rate was substantially higher than his Argentine rivals’ despite the fact both achieved 59 per cent of their shots on target.
Di Maria averaged 2.7 key passes per game to Sanchez’ 1.4, and completed 1.4 dribbles per game to Sanchez’ 1.1 for Barca, as well as being dispossessed less often, 0.8 times per game on average to Sanchez’ 1.3 times.
Overall, Di Maria is the more complete player in terms of what he provides to the team but Alexis Sanchez is the greater threat in terms of goals. We must also remember the kinds of players both had around them last term in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Gareth Bale in order to keep their number in context.
Alexis Sanchez has a year to improve to Di Maria’s level but Manchester United have bought a player capable of being one of the best in the world on his day – the question will always be whether he is twice as good as Alexis Sanchez such as his price tag would suggest and I think the numbers speak for themselves in that regard. Di Maria is, on recent form, the better player but he is nowhere near twice the player Alexis Sanchez is and, in reality, the pair are very close in terms of their technical level and capability.