Di Maria adores Lionel Messi

Angel Di Maria names his best XI of team-mates: Cristiano Ronaldo nowhere to be seen…

Angel Di Maria has named his all-time greatest XI of team-mates. No Manchester United players feature, which should be no surprise given how his year at Old Trafford went, but it’s a shock to see Cristiano Ronaldo’s name nowhere on the teamsheet. 

Having represented a number of Europe’s elite clubs as well as Argentina for almost two decades, Di Maria has been blessed to share the pitch with dozens of truly world-class footballers. So it was always going to be tough picking an all-time favourite XI of team-mates.

The 35-year-old compiled the team for Argentinian TV channel TYC Sports. Without further ado, here’s who made the cut…

GK: Emiliano Martinez

Di Maria has lined up alongside legendary goalkeepers Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon and Keylor Navas but he’s gone with the Aston Villa man between the sticks.

You can understand why, given Martinez’s exceptional performances helped deliver Argentina the Copa America and World Cup. That save to deny Randal Kolo Muani alone is worth his admission.

“El Dibu (Martinez) is the best goalkeeper in the world. Go cry elsewhere,” Di Maria responded when Adil Rami labelled the ‘keeper as ‘the biggest piece of sh*t in football’ for his exuberant World Cup celebrations.

RB: Sergio Ramos

Having produced a man-of-the-match display in the 2013 Champions League final, delivering Real Madrid’s long-awaited La Decima, Di Maria has Ramos’ last-minute heroics to thank for his great performance not being in vain.

Di Maria has always been grateful for Ramos having his back when it came to his Bernabeu exit in 2014.

“Cristiano (Ronaldo), (Sergio) Ramos, Iker (Casillas)…they fought against by departure, but it’s difficult against the little one that runs Real Madrid,” he later recalled, referring to club president Florentino Perez.

“What happened happened, but I’m always grateful that I was banked on.”

CB: Javier Mascherano

A player that Di Maria knew all too well what it was like to play against, having come up against his compatriot during his prime years at Barcelona.

Despite that, he recognises the value of having that kind of warrior spirit in your corner. Mascherano was so devoted that he once tore his anus during Argentina’s run to the 2014 World Cup final, so Di Maria ought not to have been surprised that he did everything it took to stop him scoring.

There’s a strong argument that Di Maria should have been awarded a penalty, for a foul by Mascherano, when PSG famously exited the Champions League after losing 6-1 to Barcelona in 2017. But he has no hard feelings – in fact it sounds as though there’s a grudging respect.

“He came out and recognised that himself after the match,” Di Maria recalled.

“At the moment I was about to shoot, he touched me. It was his only option. I was alone, I could have scored, there was no other possibility.

“However, the referee thought differently and whistled for something else instead of for us. He saw nothing.”

CB: Nicolas Otamendi

The former Manchester City defender is now lining up alongside Di Maria for Benfica, but it’s surely for his international exploits that Otamendi makes this XI.

He’s had his fair share of critics over the years but he was a rock at the back for Argentina as they claimed the Copa America and World Cup. For that Di Maria has his eternal gratitude.

LB: Marcelo

There’s tons of competition for every other spot in this XI, but Di Maria lined up alongside surprisingly few truly world-class left-backs.

One of the most decorated players in history, Marcelo blows the competition out of the water. Layvin Kurzawa, Maxwell, Nicolas Tagliafico and Luke Shaw can’t hold a candle to the Real Madrid hero.

DM: Rui Costa

The only pick from the Argentinian’s first stint at Benfica, legendary Portuguese midfielder Costa was back at his boyhood club and seeing out his twilight years as a senior leader in the dressing room when Di Maria first arrived in Europe as a fresh-faced youngster from Rosario.

Costa is now president of Benfica and helped get the deal done to bring the 35-year-old back to the Estadio da Luz. But he’s got his work cut out at the base of this midfield, given what’s ahead of him…

READ: Rui Costa, ‘The Maestro’ who made Fiorentina, Milan & Portugal tick

CAM: Angel Di Maria

Sticking himself in the team, and why wouldn’t he?

CAM: Neymar

A divisive figure who’s had his fair share of conflict with teammates over the years, Di Maria has nothing but good words to say about the Brazilian.

“Neymar is what you see,” says Di Maria.

“He is joyful. He is in a birthday party all day. The typical Brazilian, with a huge heart because he is a phenomenon, an exceptional person.”

FWR: Lionel Messi

First name on the teamsheet, naturally.

READ: 10 Argentina stars on Lionel Messi’s influence: ‘You’d go to war if he asked you to’

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Something of a surprise inclusion, given that the pair only spent one season together at PSG. Di Maria played about a hundred games more with each of Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema – but it’s Ibrahimovic that gets his pick up top.

To be fair, they got the very best out of one another that year. Laurent Blanc’s PSG were bags of fun in 2015-16, scoring over 100 goals in Ligue 1 and notching a record 96-point tally.

Ibra ended up with a career-best 38 league goals, 50 in all competitions, while Di Maria notched a career-best 25 assists and 15 goals.

FWL: Kylian Mbappe

Di Maria and Mbappe directly combined for 31 goals – five Di Maria goals assisted by Mbappe and 26 Mbappe goals assisted by Di Maria.

That’s the most joint goal participation of any of Di Maria’s team-mates, which is some going when you consider quite how many legendary players he’s lined up alongside for club and country.

READ NEXT: An ode to Angel Di Maria at Real & the best assist you’ve never seen

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Man Utd’s 25 most expensive transfers in history?