Di Maria grateful to get second chance

[PORTRAIT] Young Argentine Angel Di Maria shares a lot in common with Albiceleste star Lionel Messi. Both hail from Rosario. Both are left-footed. Both have already won an Under-20 World Cup title and an Olympic gold medal. And both their national team careers got off to terrible starts.

Messi's first game lasted 44 seconds before he was red carded against Hungary in 2005.

It took a few games before Di Maria picked up his first red card playing for Argentina, but it came only six minutes after he came on in the Albiceleste's 6-1 loss to Bolivia in World Cup qualifying, and he thought his international career was over.

He is grateful for Coach Diego Maradona sticking with him.

"It was a stupid red card," said the 22-year-old Di Maria, "and after Diego still showed trust in me."

Like American Freddy Adu, Di Maria starred at the 2007 Under-20 World Cup in Canada and was signed after the tournament by Portuguese club Benfica.

But while Adu floundered in Lisbon, Di Maria flourished, helping Benfica win the 2010 Portuguese title.

Di Maria, whose goal gave Argentina a 1-0 win over Nigeria in the 2008 Olympic final, shares other traits with Messi. He is left-footed but likes to play on the right side, allowing him to cut into the middle.

The one thing they won't have in common is their club team.

Di Maria is expected to join Real Madrid, Barca's archrival, on a transfer deal estimated at $40 million after the World Cup.

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