It’s either an act of desperation or shrewdness – and I’m holding back on applauding Manchester United’s sense, if there is any, in extending the contract of Nani – a player who looked certain for the exit door this past summer.
Nani’s contract extension this past weekend signalled another high-profile U-turn at the club, following on from Wayne Rooney’s stay at Old Trafford; though how willing the striker was to do so remains unanswered. Nani’s minutes were limited last season through injury, while his production has been nowhere near what is expected from a player who should be deemed an integral part of the setup at United. For his talents, Nani is clearly ahead of both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia.
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But United had an opportunity to get rid and upgrade their options from the flanks. It’s been said countless times that the club wasted their time in pursuing Cesc Fabregas, where they could have turned to Ander Herrera much earlier and perhaps another wide player too. A five-year contract for Nani will obviously be dressed up in a positive light – I don’t expect anything else from the club – but it just marks another baffling decision by the new regime.
It’s off the back of the Marouane Fellaini signing, a good player but clearly not the type the club were chasing this summer, while it just adds to the clumsy and ineffectual nature of the summer market. United are a good team, but where have the additions, or players retained, made this team an obvious contender in the face of other Premier League title rivals?
I’ve previously made the point that the manager does a lot for a team in getting them over the line or making them look better than they are. Isn’t it a much fairer summary of this United setup to say they’re a team who walk a fine line between challenging for Premier League honours and just being a top four team. There’s nothing at present, even with van Persie, that places them firmly in the group of title-challengers. Extending Nani’s stay, and for a deal as long as five years, does very little to act as a battle won for the club.
There has to be questions asked as to what Nani can bring to the team at present. Ok, maybe there is a chance to start afresh under a new manager, but Nani’s inconsistencies are not something of a 21-year-old who is new to the big time in European football; Nani is 26 and has never looked to be a player who can be a realistic superstar at Old Trafford. There have simply been too many false dawns.
Moreover, how does this continue to impact Shinji Kagawa, who has seen minutes on the left of the attack and who certainly offers more in the final third than the Portuguese winger. Kagawa’s game is geared towards getting the best out of Robin van Persie, so isn’t it too much of a risk to go with a player in Nani who has offered very little over the past two years at the expense of a player who was once the second most important player at Borussia Dortmund? If Nani is just seen to be a squad or impact player, then that’s one hell of an investment for a player who isn’t a regular each week.
Is the contract extension for Nani a smart piece of business from a footballing perspective?
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