Nani is reportedly the subject of much interest at the moment with as many as six clubs thought to be chasing his signature after it became clear that the club would be willing to listen to offers for him for the first time after a series of disappointing displays this term, but should they really be looking to move him on?
The 25-year-old has been at Old Trafford for six years now and has always provided a steady and consistent stream of end product. Having scored 38 goals in 201 games so far for the club and he finished last season with 11 assists in the league, with only Antonio Valencia providing more as they were pipped to the league title by local rivals Manchester City by the narrowest of margins on the final day of last season. This is a player who had the joint-highest combined goals and assists record in the Premier League two seasons ago, with nine and a remarkable 18 respectively, as well as scoring eight and assisting 10 in 2011-12.
Nevertheless, there’s been a growing frustration at his performances over the past year or so and as he approaches his 26th birthday, it becomes harder and harder to explain away his poor decision-making. Cristiano Ronaldo suffered from a similar weakness in his initial years at Old Trafford and simply due to the nature that the two are from the same country, his apologists have often pleaded patience with Nani arguing that he will come good just in the same way that the Real Madrid man did, but it looks unlikely at the moment.
When you compare Nani to Valencia, his rival for a right wing berth, then it’s clear why Sir Alex Ferguson has largely favoured the Ecuadorian given that his delivery from wide areas is dependable and even if he may be something of a one trick pony, it’s a trick that works most of the time. Whereas with Nani, you simply don’t know what you’re going to get, which in itself can have an impact on the rest of the side with other players less willing to make a run off the ball for the fear that he’ll simply have a crack from distance or pelt one into the nearest man from out wide.
There’s also the fact that Ferguson has brought in two simply superb attacking options this summer in Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie. The Dutch striker is likely to be the focal point of the club’s attack while Wayne Rooney drops off behind him, with both Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez displaying good form at home and abroad of late.
This saw Ferguson go with three up front in their last home game against Stoke and start with a midfield diamond against Braga, with neither system lending itself to what United have become traditionally known for, which is playing two recognised wingers every game, which also decreases Nani’s chances of regular football.
His ego has also been a problem and had an impact on performances, and for every wonder goal he strikes from range, he balloons ten into the stands and why he insists on taking free-kicks from ‘Ronaldo range’ is beyond me. He’s a strange player to characterise fully, though, given that during some games he can be unplayable, with the 4-4 draw against Everton last term an example, and others absolutely appalling, which points to a player with a confidence level that’s more fragile than we are often led to believe.
The financial aspect is also worth considering and the club have spent a sizeable amount this summer and with over £50m spent on potentially crippling interest repayments in the year ending June 2011, with the promise of more to come, if the club could seal a deal for a fee in the region of £25m, particularly with his contract entering its final 18 months, would be far too tempting to turn down.
Much in the same way that Anderson frustrates but always offers a ray of hope every now and again with a superb showing, Nani does the same and they are probably the two most divisive players at the club right now. He is inconsistent yet creative, egotistical yet fragile and he flits between terrible and unplayable with the sort of consummate ease not normally associated with a Manchester United player.
There’s no denying his talent, but with the numerous attacking options available at the moment, he’s far from a guaranteed starter, yet at the same time, while the money on offer may be extremely appealing, would the squad be in better shape if they did let him go? When discussing the rumoured departure of any player, that above all else is the question that needs to be asked and in his case, I’m not so sure it would be. He may have his flaws, plenty of them even, but he’s a player capable of unlocking doors and every side needs someone of that caliber from time to time.
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