MADRID (REUTERS) - Real Madrid forward Angel di Maria will almost certainly lose his place in the starting lineup to world record signing Gareth Bale when the Wales winger is back from injury, but he is not going down without a fight.
The Argentina international with the lethal left foot scored twice in Wednesday's 4-0 Champions League rout of FC Copenhagen and set up Cristiano Ronaldo for the second of his double with an eye-catching piece of skill.
Known as "fideo" (noodle), the whippet-like di Maria has won over Real's demanding fans with his energy and commitment and was recently cited by coach Carlo Ancelotti as an example for the rest of the squad to follow.
Despite all that, Italian Ancelotti will have no choice but to relegate di Maria to the bench when Bale has recovered from a minor thigh strain.
After agreeing to pay Tottenham Hotspur 100 million euros (S$170 million) for the Welshman in the close season, Real president Florentino Perez would never allow the world's most expensive player to be left out of the starting formation.
With prolific Portugal forward Ronaldo, Spain playmaker Isco and France striker Karim Benzema ahead of him in the pecking order, di Maria is likely to be used as second-half substitute even if his performances merit a regular place in the team.
For the time being, di Maria, 25, is doing his best to convince Ancelotti but is almost certainly fighting in vain.
"I am just working the same way as always," di Maria told reporters after the Copenhagen match. "I am trying to show the coach that I want to play but the important thing is to keep up the effort," he added.
Di Maria's 'rabona' assist for Ronaldo's second goal, flicking his left leg behind his right and chipping the ball into the centre of the area, was one of the highlights of Wednesday's game and the move has become something of a trademark for the former Benfica player.
Unfortunately for Real fans, they may not get to witness such sublime skills often.