He is the ultimate enigma, a man who has polarized opinion at Old Trafford since his arrival from Sporting Lisbon in 2007.
Nani is a man of unquestionable talent, a player who possesses that unique ability to change a game with one moment of magic, but also that not so unique ability to be a frustrating presence, a selfish influence that brings an end to every promising attack.
However, 2010/11 heralded the emergence of a different Nani. All of a sudden, the Portuguese looked more like Ronaldo and less like Quaresma, a man improved in the last third, now finally able to deliver an effective final pass. With eighteen assists in the league, Nani was without doubt one of the Premier Leauge’s most effective creative players, and he soon became Manchester United’s default starter on the wing; the go to man in any hour of need.
And then came the injury. A horrific tackle by Jamie Carragher looked to have ruled Nani out for months, only for the Portuguese to return just days later, but something was different. Nani finished the season with a respectable ten goals, but none of those came after the match at Anfield, Nani seemed to have lost something, and fast became United’s second choice winger as Antonio Valencia returned from injury.
In a season that had promised so much, Nani eventually disappointed; unable to build upon a fantastic first half, Nani slipped back into his old frustrating ways by the season’s conclusion. Since United’s loss at Wembley ended 2010/11 in disappointing fashion, Nani has been linked to a whole host of European clubs, including Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Rumor has had it that Ferguson is willing to sacrifice Nani, that his use in a trade deal might not be out of the question.
If rumor of an exit was rife before, it certainly is now. As we all know, Ferguson secured the signing of Aston Villa winger Ashley Young earlier today, a player who in many ways is an equivalent of Nani; it would be unlikely for both of them to start. Given Nani’s dip in form towards the end of 2010/11, Valencia’s immense impact and Fergie’s consistent preference for Park in the big games, it is possible that Nani could start the 2011/12 season as third choice winger, something which you can be sure would anger the Portuguese international.
Nani must now be reflecting upon his position at Manchester United, for a player with so much talent a sub’s place is unacceptable, and Nani will know that if he declared his intent to leave there would be suitors aplenty.
It is always difficult to know what exactly is running through Sir Alex Ferguson’s head, but the signing of Young does indicate that he is not one hundred percent convinced by Nani, and if the opportunity to use him as a makeweight in a deal for an attacking midfielder arose, then I imagine he would give it due consideration.
With Lennon rumored to want out from Tottenham, Nani could be a potential target for Redknapp, and there is a certain Croatian at White Hart Lane who could do wonders for our central midfield… Perhaps more likely though is a swap with Inter Milan, I for one would relish the arrival of Sneijder, even if it meant that Nani would have to go the other way.
Wherever his potential destination, there is no doubt about it, Nani’s future at United is in more jeopardy than it was several months ago, the ball is now in his court, so it will be interesting to see how Nani responds to Young’s arrival. It would be a refreshing break from the normal petulance and sulkiness of Nani, to see him really pull his socks up and work hard to regain a place in the first team, but that could be a bridge too far for the Portuguese international; I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he handed in a transfer request first thing upon his arrival at Carrington for pre season training.
Should United sell Luis Nani? Feel free to comment below?
Read more by David Yaffe-Bellany at In For The Hat Trick