Following the unexpected signing of Orkun Kökçu, Benfica have moved to secure the return of Ángel Di María. The Argentine is returning to his first European club.
From 2007 to 2010, El Fideo played in Lisbon, and he will now grace the Estadio da Luz once again, bringing both his talent and experience to the team. Last season was a phenomenal one for Benfica, as they clinched the Portuguese championship title and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Beyond the impressive results, Roger Schmidt's team played some of the most captivating football in Europe.
Benfica, renowned for selling their players for remarkable fees, has been undergoing a more ambitious project since the arrival of the German coach last year, and the start of this transfer window suggests that their aspirations are far from over.
At 35 years old, what can Benfica supporters expect from Di Maria?
A magician on the pitch that needs to be managed
During the previous season, Di María played 40 games, averaging 56 minutes per game for Juventus, and 290 minutes in 5 games at the World Cup (58 minutes per game on average).
He scored nine goals and provided nine assists, playing a pivotal role in the World Cup final, winning a penalty as well as scoring a goal against France.
However, he missed approximately 15 games due to minor injuries throughout the season, a topic the medical team at Benfica will have to address. However, it's not just the medical team who will play a role in Angel's management.
While Roger Schmidt was largely praised by Benfica fans, he did not manage his players' fatigue perfectly, often fielding the same starting XI week after week. In his defense, the quality of the second-choice players was not nearly as good as the starters.
The arrival of Schjelderup, Tengstedt, Guedes last winter, and Di María this summer might provide the German coach with the depth he needs to reduce the average number of minutes played by his players.
Players such as João Mario, Rafa, and even Neres have shown that they cannot sustain 90 minutes every week, especially when there is a midweek Champions League match.
Di María will be an option for both the right wing and the central attacking midfielder positions in Schmidt's 4-2-3-1 system.
Considering the current state of the Benfica roster, it is highly probable that he will rotate with Rafa (central attacking Midfielder) and David Neres (right winger), although he may also have some minutes on the left wing.
Even if there are certain positions that are yet to be filled, Benfica's will likely operate with significant changes from one game to another due to the high versatility of most of the offensive players.
A leader off the field
Di María will bring a wealth of experience that only a handful of players in Europe possess.
Promising young talents like Schjelderup will have the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest wingers over the last decade. Last year, Otamendi had a similar mentorship role with Antonio Silva, one of the best defenders in his age group according to the Golden Boy ratings.
Such mentorship is invaluable for a team, especially for a club like Benfica that is brimming with talented young players. Di María will also bring his passion for a club he has represented 121 times between 2007 and 2010.
“The emotion I feel is unparalleled. Returning to what I consider my true home, Benfica, is an experience unlike any other. I am immensely grateful to all of you, the fans and the president, for granting me the opportunity to return to where I truly belong,” said Di Maria during his presentation in Lisbon.
Having such a role model who loves the club can only bring positive effects to the Lisbon-based team. In order to prepare for the upcoming year and attempt to enhance their already fantastic run in the Champions League, Rui Costa (current president of SL Benfica) will likely leverage Ángel Di María as a magnet to attract talented players to the unfilled positions of Benfica's roster.