PSG tar­get Cham­pi­ons League glory with Di Maria

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY ANDY SCOTT

Paris Saint-Ger­main are con­fi­dent An­gel di Maria can be the man to help them con­quer Europe af­ter com­plet­ing the sign­ing of the Ar­gentina winger on Thurs­day.

The 27-year-old penned a fouryear deal at the Parc des Princes af­ter PSG agreed to pay Manch­ester United £44.3 mil­lion (US$68.9 mil­lion) to make him the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive sign­ing in French soc­cer history.

Re­leased from the con­straints of Fi­nan­cial Fair Play af­ter UEFA re­laxed their con­tro­ver­sial rules ear­lier this sum­mer, the French cham­pi­ons have made their big­gest splash in the trans­fer mar­ket since pay­ing 64 mil­lion eu­ros ( US$69.9 mil­lion) to sign Edin­son Ca­vani from Napoli in July 2013.

Lau­rent Blanc’s side’s dom­i­nance of the do­mes­tic scene was com­plete last sea­son, when they claimed an un­prece­dented clean sweep of the do­mes­tic hon­ors, win­ning the tre­ble of Ligue 1, French Cup and League Cup af­ter tak­ing the sea­son-open­ing Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy.

They have al­ready won the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy this sea­son with a com­fort­able 2-0 win against Lyon, their clos­est chal­lengers in the last cam­paign.

The squad was al­ready good enough to win more sil­ver­ware at home, but PSG’s Qatari own­ers are con­vinced se­cur­ing long-time tar­get Di Maria can help them be­come the first French team since Mar­seille in 1993 to be cham­pi­ons of Europe.

“It is a real honor for the club to fi­nally sign An­gel and con­tinue our great Euro­pean dream. Our great am­bi­tion as ev­ery­one knows is the Cham­pi­ons League,” said club pres­i­dent Nasser Al-Khe­laifi.

“We are close to our dream. We will try this year. An­gel will re­ally give some­thing ex­tra to the team, es­pe­cially in the Cham­pi­ons League. I hope he can win it with us.”

Paris have reached the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nals in each of the last three sea­sons, with two defeats at that stage to Barcelona sand­wich­ing a loss on away goals to Chelsea in 2014.

“There were clubs I could have gone to but my de­sire to be in this pro­ject and help them to win the Cham­pi­ons League is why I chose to come here,” said Di Maria as he was un­veiled to the media in a lux­u­ri­ous Paris ho­tel, close to the Eif­fel Tower.

Eas­ier Adap­ta­tion

The big­gest crit­i­cism of Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, their tal­is­man over the past three cam­paigns, is that he has never made a big enough im­pact in Europe, wher­ever he has been in his ca­reer.

The Swede will be 34 in Oc­to­ber and is now en­ter­ing what will be his last sea­son in the French cap­i­tal, while Di Maria ar­rives look­ing to win the Cham­pi­ons League for the sec­ond time af­ter his tri­umph with Real Madrid in 2014.

On that night in Lis­bon, Di Maria was prob­a­bly Madrid’s best player as they beat their city ri­vals Atletico af­ter ex­tra time, but just a few months later he had left for United for a Bri­tish record trans­fer fee of £59.7 mil­lion.

And yet, the for­mer Rosario Cen­tral and Ben­fica star will be re­mem­bered as a costly mis­take by the Old Traf­ford club.

Not helped by be­ing shunted around in sev­eral dif­fer­ent po­si­tions by man­ager Louis van Gaal, he lacked con­sis­tency and there was also the trauma of be­ing at home with his fam­ily when bur­glars tried to break in.

He never set­tled in Eng­land but adapt­ing to life in Paris will be eas­ier with com­pa­tri­ots Eze­quiel Lavezzi and Javier Pa­s­tore there to help him.

“For my wife and daugh­ter it is won­der­ful to be able to come and live in Paris,” said the slightly-built Di Maria, who can play in mid­field as well as on the wing.

“I know Pocho (Lavezzi). He has been here for var­i­ous years and has been say­ing that it is a beau­ti­ful city. I also came be­cause of my friend­ship with him.”

That said, Lavezzi is one of those who may have the most to lose with the ar­rival of Di Maria, who is likely to team up with Ca­vani and Ibrahi­movic in Blanc’s strong­est start­ing line-up.

PSG fans will have to wait for his de­but, how­ever, with Di Maria be­hind in his pre-sea­son prepa­ra­tions af­ter com­ing away from the Copa Amer­ica in Chile last month with a thigh in­jury.

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