Angel Di Maria has denied making an offensive gesture to Real Madrid fans during Monday night’s 3-0 La Liga win over Celta Vigo at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, while claiming that the Spanish media are trying to force him out of the club but he wants to stay.
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TV pictures appeared to show Di Maria reacting to being substituted with an hour gone, and the game at 0-0 by grabbing his crotch, with still images of the incident quickly circulating online.
The winger claimed afterwards that the image had been taken out of context, telling FOX Sports Radio -- in comments reported by Clarin -- that this was just another case of people trying to drag him into controversy when he had done nothing at all.
“There was nothing towards anyone,” Di Maria said. “I was adjusting myself and I kept running. If I was angry I would not have shook hands with anyone. I left the pitch totally naturally. People are always waiting for me to do something.
“I have never had problems with the fans. I felt that half were applauding and half were whistling. I always need to clear up what I do. With everyone else there is no problem, but with me all hell is raised up. My family were in the stadium -- I am not going to make that gesture with them there.”
Di Maria’s future has been the subject of much speculation in Spain and elsewhere, with Monaco, Arsenal and Manchester United among the teams reportedly interested. Reporters close to Madrid's hierarchy have claimed he could leave for Monaco this January, while one of the player’s agents and his own wife have claimed Blancos president Florentino Perez is trying to force him out of the Bernabeu.
But Marca quoted the Argentina international telling Radio la Red in his homeland that it was Spanish journalists -- not Perez or his own people, who include Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes -- who were really to blame for all the talk about his future.
“Maybe the press in Spain do not like me because I do not give interviews,” Di Maria said. “They want to put me against the fans and the club. They are always waiting for me to do something so they can kill me. I love playing, helping the team, and not talking with the press. I am happy here. I have the support of my teammates and of the coach [Carlo] Ancelotti.”
At his postmatch news conference, Ancelotti tried to play down the controversy when pressed by reporters.
“I have not seen the gesture,” the Italian coach said on the club's official website. “I shook his hand and then I don’t know what he did. I just changed him to put on two fresh players to open up the defence. He is very important to us and I have a lot of confidence in him. He might have made a mistake, but it’s not a big deal for me. It is news to me if he responded to the crowd and it is a mistake if he has, but life goes on.”
Ancelotti, who again started Di Maria in the game with Gareth Bale and young media favourite Jese Rodriguez on the bench, said he had no issues with the former Benfica man’s commitment or attitude.
“[Di Maria] tried to play, just like everyone else did,” he said. “[The substitution] came in a period of the match when the crowd were whistling. Sometimes whistles can be a good thing, and the team played better afterwards.”