In the summer of 2007 when Manchester United brought in Nani from Sporting Lisbon, he was perceived as another player that would shake the premier league like his fellow Portuguese, Cristiano Ronaldo. Then, Ronaldo had achieved the status of chief tormentor for premier league defenders. The arrival of Nani, a player with similar characteristics and skills with Ronaldo, further strenghtened the perception that Manchester United were out to practically destroy English Premier League teams. I could remember vividly his first premier league goal against Tottenham Hotspurs. The brilliance was there for everybody to see. With the Red Devils and Spurs still on level, Nani was introduced towards the end of the game. A pass to Scholes was selfishly intercepted by the Portuguese. He turned to face the Tottenham defence, made a first touch, then powered home a thunderous shot. It went all the way into the net. Everywhere was agog. What a skillful display. Worthy to note that in his first season in Manchester United, he played all the way to the Uefa Champions League finals against Chelsea. But then, that was a team with Tevez, Ronaldo and Rooney. His efforts were minimal. Expectations from him was also minimal.
With the departure of Ronaldo and Tevez a season later automatically transferred the onus of performance on Rooney and probably Nani whose skills was thought will compensate for the vacuum caused by Ronaldo’s exit. Then, the picture was beginning to get clearer. Nani, as good as he initially showed was never going to mature or be as efficient as his fellow Portuguese. While Ronaldo was banging in goals, competing for highest goal scorer during his last three years in Old Trafford, Nani hardly hit double figure goals in the Premier league. Though, he often display flashes of magnificence, it never really translated to a performance anyone would want to compare to the exploits of Cristiano. But trust Ferguson. The man, who had been known to manage his personnel effectively, continued juggling among his winger options. There was Nani, Valencia and Ashley Young to choose from. And there was still the ultimate joker, the infallible Ryan Giggs. Instead of Nani to step up his game and make an impression on the team, he continued his subpar performances so much so that Valencia, with are relatively inferior skill was more depended on to deliver. From then onwards, Nani kept dropping on the ladder. Who is to blame? He alone is. If players like Mata, Silva and Di Maria can play on to become world class, why couldn’t Nani? The Portuguese major flaw lies with him not able to create his own style of play. Rather, he always try to recreate Ronaldo. But for long? The arrival of Moyes did not make matters any better. The Scot does not even understand his players talk more of managing them efficiently. So, the star of the Portuguese gradually faded out.
The arrival of Van Gaal brought about a tactical overhaul of the team. Players deemed surplus to requirements were axed by the Dutch man. Some went out on loan, while some were sold out rightly. Nani, in his own case was loaned back to his roots as part of a deal to bring in Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon. In football, if you are young and loaned out, it means that you should go get more experience. But by the time you are clocking 26 and pushed out on loan, the message is clear. You are not needed anymore. Nani’s first game for Sporting Lisbon witnessed a penalty kick loss by the player. Thats not so encouraging.
Surely, the possibility of Nani getting back to become a major player in Old Trafford seems very bleak at the moment. Not with the current crop of stars playing presently. Even, a Cuadrado will deliver better than the Portuguese for now. And probably for many more years to come.