Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria says former boss and current Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has helped him become the player he is today.
Di Maria left Benfica to join Mourinho at Madrid in a deal worth 25 million euros in 2010 and has made over 100 appearances for los Blancos.
The Argentina international insists his development into one of the leading stars at the Bernabeu is thanks to the guidance and tutelage of his former coach.
“Mourinho made me a better player. He showed me many things, and made me grow as a footballer. He helped me to move into a different position, to sacrifice myself more for the team," Di Maria told Diario Ole. "I’m very grateful to him. He told me that at Real I was a forward that could also defend, and that I couldn’t rest when they were on the attack.
"As I was performing under him for the three years he was at Madrid he put me in the starting line-up. The Di Maria playing down the middle compared to the one now is a different player, both technically and tactically.”
The 25-year-old now playing in his fourth season in the Spanish capital says he no longer feels overawed by lining up alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and at international level Lionel Messi.
“My friends ask me, and make me realise that I’m playing alongside them," he continued. "But as time goes on I’m getting used to it, and appearing alongside them is something natural for me. I don’t say ‘wow, I’m here and playing with so-and-so’ any more."
Di Maria has been linked with a move away from Madrid in recent weeks, with a number of clubs interested in his signature, including Ligue 1 side Monaco and Premier League sides Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.
However, despite the arrival of Gareth Bale for a world-record fee at the Bernabeu, which has curbed he amount of appearances Di Maria has made, coach Carlo Ancelotti insists he still wants the Argentine at the club.