The winger was injured in the quarter-finals of the competition but had been having injections in his leg in order to play through the pain. Real Madrid had made the decision to sell Di Maria after the World Cup and did not want him hurting himself in a way that would make him impossible to sell.
Ahead of Argentina’s decisive group game with Nigeria at this year’s World Cup, Di Maria has revealed what really went on in 2014 as he watched his country crash to defeat in the final.
Di Maria recounted his heartbreaking tale on The Player’s Tribune, titled ‘
In the rain, in the cold, in the dark’.
‘It was the morning of the 2014 World Cup Final, at exactly 11am and I was sitting on the trainer’s table about to get an injection in my leg. I had torn my thigh muscle in the quarter-finals, but with painkillers, I could run without feeling anything,’ he wrote.
‘I told our trainers these exact words: “If I break, then let me keep breaking. I don’t care. I just want to be able to play”.
So I was putting ice on my leg when our team doctor, Daniel Martínez, came into the room holding this envelope, and he said
“Look, Ángel, this paper came from Real Madrid.”
‘I said “What are you talking about?” He said “Well, they’re saying you’re not in any condition to play. So they are forcing us to not let you play today.”
‘I immediately knew what was happening. Everybody had heard the rumours that Real wanted to sign James Rodríguez after the World Cup, and I knew that they were going to sell me to make room for him.
‘So they didn’t want their asset to be damaged. It was that simple. That’s the business of football that people do not always see. I told Daniel to give me the letter. I didn’t even open it. I just ripped it into pieces.’
Di Maria also recounted a conversation with the then Argentina manager, Alejandro Sabella, who he pleaded with to pick the player he thought best for the job, before crying in front of him.
Ultimately, he wasn’t selected and did not play in the final which Argentina lost 1-0 in extra-time.
Following the World Cup, Di Maria completed a transfer to Manchester United while James Rodriguez moved to the Bernabeu.
Playing in a World Cup final has to be the pinnacle of a players career. For Real Madrid to take that away from Di Maria was a heartless, cold decision, and shows that football players view their players as assets. Not as people.