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Coutinho vs Di Maria: A Look At Why The Liverpool Star Was Nominated For PFA And Why Di Maria Was Termed As A Flop

Let’s heat up some age old rivalry as we begin the new season. Manchester United have finally let Angel Di Maria move to PSG after breaking the British record to sign him this time around last year.

The Argentine who had a mediocre season with the Red Devils was always pitted against Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho for a simple reason that while Di Maria was termed as a flop and has faded into oblivion, Coutinho’s efforts have been recognized enough to merit a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year and the PFA Young Player of the Year. However, if you look at their stats, Coutinho’s best season at Liverpool, is not much better than di Maria’s worst season (or maybe his only season at United).

Both players have been the shining lights for their team’s campaigns when they have lit up, lulling the other team members into a false sense of bravado, which has come hurtling down as soon as the player – di Maria or Coutinho – fails in yet another match. If Angel di Maria’s performances were commendable at the start of the season, Philippe Coutinho’s performances have been commendable in the second half of the season.

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Here is where the difference crops in. The statistics may suggest that their performances have been nearly equal, but in football, the statistics could be misleading. When the focus is changed to the number of games in which each of the players has had an impact, that number is also nearly level. The burning issue is – why was Coutinho nominated, and why was di Maria not nominated then? The answer hinges on a number of factors:

  • Price – Angel di Maria’s arrival in the Premier League was ensured by a £59.7m transfer from Manchester United’s coffers to Real Madrid, who promptly used a chunk of the money to fund the purchase of the highly-rated James Rodriguez. In this, United splurged the cash and bought a top-class player who could guarantee match-winning performances as often as possible. Philippe Coutinho was purchased from Inter Milan for £8.5m in the winter transfer window in 2013. Coutinho was talented, but was not in the first-team plans and wanted to leave in pursuit of regular playing time, which Liverpool were willing to offer.
  • Value for money – Angel di Maria needed to adjust to the Premier League after his transfer, and like Mesut Ozil, was not used to playing through the holiday break – leading to a burnout after dazzling displays in the beginning of the season. Di Maria finds himself left on the bench, and is being used primarily as a substitute, to try and get himself back into form. For Liverpool, Phillippe Coutinho has impressed on occasion, but has been inconsistent. Rodgers has used Coutinho in spells when he is in form, replacing him with other attack-minded players when he falls out of form, which has quelled his lackadaisical play.
  • Development in the Premier League – Angel di Maria was an established player when he moved to the Premier League, and has not had to develop his play in the Premier League. Much is expected of di Maria, but he needed to adjust to the league, which he failed to do. Philippe Coutinho, on the other hand, has developed his play in the Premier League, and is fulfilling his potential, spending more than two seasons to get to where he is at the moment. He has grasped enough opportunities, and his ability to destroy oppositions on his day is well-known. The inconsistency which had plagued his game was reduced dramatically last season, which might have contributed to his nomination.

Thus, it was more than just the statistics that culminated in Coutinho’s nominations for the PFA awards, in what has easily been his best season in his budding playing career. Angel di Maria went through one of his worst seasons in his playing career, as he was trying to cope with the Premier League, and even though his statistics are similar to Philippe Coutinho – meriting United fans’ anguish at the nomination, Coutinho has taken two years to surpass the expectations that the League had from him, which have been expressed in his nomination.

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