Money, memories comfort RealComment on this story
Madrid - Almost exactly a year ago Angel di Maria had prepared himself for an exit from Real Madrid.
The arrival of Gareth Bale for a reported world record fee ensured the Welshman would take the place Di Maria had inhabited on the right of the Real attack for the previous three seasons.
However, given the option of selling the Argentine or German playmaker Mesut Ozil, Real boss Carlo Ancelotti surprisingly opted to keep Di Maria with Ozil joining Arsenal for £42.4m ($98 million, 75 million euros).
That decision proved to be hugely influential for Madrid both on and off the pitch as Di Maria propelled Los Blancos to their much coveted “Decima”, a 10th European Cup.
And now Real have reaped the rewards financially by selling the 26-year-old at three times his valuation from 12 months ago as Manchester United have made him the most expensive signing in English football history at £59.7 million.
Ancelotti can also take the credit for making the key tactical change which turned Di Maria's Madrid career around as he moved him from a wide position into the central midfield role he has occupied previously with Argentina.
Nicknamed the “noodle” for his wiry frame, Di Maria's box-to-box running perfectly complemented the ball-playing abilities of Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso and contributed to Real's ferocious pace on the counter-attack with Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo at the point of the attack.
Three previous seasons in which he broadly flattered to deceive, albeit with moments of brilliance, most notably a superb assist for Ronaldo to beat Pep Guardiola's all-conquering Barcelona side in the 2011 Copa del Rey final, were quickly forgotten.
He tore Barcelona apart in a sensational first-half display in March despite Real's 4-3 defeat and scored as they gained revenge by winning the Cup once more against the Catalans in April.
However, his most telling contribution was to come a month later in Lisbon as he broke Atletico Madrid hearts by creating the decisive goal in the Champions League final.
A characteristic weaving run and finish was brilliantly saved by Atletico's Thibaut Courtois, but the ball spooned up for Bale to head into an empty net.
“Thank you for everything noodle,” former Liverpool midfielder Alonso wrote on his official Twitter account on Sunday.
“I wish you all the best although it is at Man Utd. We will never forget the zig-zag in extra time in Lisbon.”
Indeed Di Maria's performance in the Portuguese capital earned him the man of the match award, so why just three months later has he departed?
On two counts money is the answer. Di Maria thought his efforts last season were worth a significant raise in salary, which Real weren't willing to offer and United were.
Secondly, despite their Champions League success, Real president Florentino Perez couldn't resist a near 100 million-euro splurge on World Cup star midfielders James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.
Tellingly, the 75 million-euro capture of Rodriguez also offers Madrid a commercial way into an important emerging economic market in Colombia.
As Madrid sports daily AS's editor Alfredo Relano wrote over the weekend “this Real Madrid was conceived from neon lights, not footballing logic...and Di Maria doesn't sell shirts.”
Having signed huge shirt sponsorship deals with Adidas and Chevrolet, United's commercial value needs no improving, but just one point from their opening two Premier League games showed their team on the pitch is badly in need of a boost.
And whilst the price may be a hard one to swallow for the money men at United, Di Maria's potential to deliver them back into the Champions League come the end of the season could make him worth every penny.