Luis Nani; signed by Manchester United in 2007 as a 20 year old with incredible potential, has once again been at the nucleus of all the transfer talk this summer.
A graduate of the famous Sporting Lisbon Academy, Nani was once billed as ‘the next Cristiano Ronaldo’, yet he has failed to hit the heights of his Portuguese compatriot and former Manchester United team-mate.
At 26 years old, Nani should be coming in to the peak years of his career, but unlike his predecessor Ronaldo, he remains infuriatingly inconsistent.
In the early stages of his Manchester United career, Nani’s playing style was often compared to that of his fellow countryman’s. On top form, the talented Portuguese winger can destroy defenders in a split second. He possesses pace and trickery in abundance and his ability to create and score goals make him a player of immense quality.
Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo flourished and developed in to one of the world’s best players at Manchester United, Nani remained in his shadow. And since the departure of Ronaldo to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 for a world-record £80million transfer fee, Nani has had numerous chances to finally showcase his undoubted talent and potential.
He produced glimpses of sheer brilliance in the 2009-10 season; but once again, he was criticised for his inability to produce match-winning performances on a regular basis.
His most successful season came in the 2010-11 campaign; in which he was played on a more regular basis, predominately due to an injury to Antonio Valencia; who was ruled out until March 2011 after breaking his leg in a Champions League tie against Rangers in September 2010.
He finished the season with 10 goals and 15 assists in all competitions, and was voted as Manchester United’s Player of the Year by his fellow team-mates.
In addition to this; he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year, and was included in the PFA Premier League Team of the year; a very successful season by anyone’s standards.
Nani began the 2011-12 season in style as he had concluded the previous, and was nominated in November 2011 for the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or Award.
However, with the return of Antonio Valencia from injury; the summer signing of Ashley Young, and a foot injury which kept him out of action for almost three months in early 2012, Nani failed to hit the incredible heights of the 2010-11 season.
The most recent 2012-13 season was arguably one of Nani’s worst at the club; appearing for Manchester United only 11 times in the Premier League (4 substitute appearances), and scoring only three goals in all competitions.
However, Nani was not the only inconsistent player amongst United’s ranks last season.
Ashley Young has also failed to regularly produce match-winning performances in his time at the club, and Antonio Valencia has suffered from a lack of confidence since returning from injury in the 2010-11 season.
The inconsistency of these Manchester United wingers may have been a determining factor in Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to sign the young English prodigy Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace in the January transfer window; but it is not yet known whether new boss David Moyes will immerse him straight in to the first team squad next season, or send him out on loan.
With Nani entering the final year of his Manchester United contract, it seems as though it is the ‘last-chance saloon’, for a player who was once tipped for greatness at Old Trafford.
A number of clubs are reported to be interested in the winger, with Galatasaray reported to have had a bid rejected, and rumours that both Juventus and Arsenal are keeping tabs.
Ultimately, it is quite evident that Luis Nani possesses the skill, quality and creativity to produce moments of sheer brilliance on a football pitch.
But due to injuries, rotation and a lack of consistent performances, he has been predominately ‘hit-and-miss’ in his six years at the club.
He is a devastatingly explosive winger with the ability to produce moments of pure magic, but until now, this has not been persistently produced.
He has the ability not only to score goals, but to create goals – which makes him an important asset to the club.
However, as excellent as he can be, he is too often weak defensively, and is frequently wasteful in possession.
Though on his day, Nani is capable of delivering a world class performance, and has the potential to be one of the best wide-players in the world.
At the age of 26, Nani still has a lot to offer Manchester United.
He still has bags of potential, but he needs to be able to consistently perform at the top level.
He still has his best years ahead of him, and I wholeheartedly believe that he should remain at Manchester United.
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