Labeled as a “poor man’s Cristiano Ronaldo”, Nani was a popular Manchester United player in the late Sir Alex Ferguson era. He was signed on from Sporting CP for a reported €25 million as an exciting young prospect very similar to Cristiano Ronaldo. The latter is now considered to be the best player in the world while Nani is lost in mediocrity.
Nani will unfortunately always remain a case of ‘what could have been.’ His quality at the top level was never in doubt but was always limited to small flashes of brilliance. Yet he went on to make 147 appearances and won four Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Club World Cup and several others.
One of the most distinct things that all fans remember of Nani is his trademark goal celebration. He goes into a ‘mortal leap of faith’ whenever he scores.
There were reports that Ferguson was afraid of his safety while celebrating but this was dismissed by Nani.
In his early days at United, comparisons with Cristiano were made very often. This was increased when reports came in suggesting that the pair even lived together for some time given their close friendship.
Nani, like Cristiano, has always been a winger with a bag full of tricks, fakes and tons of pace to burn. However, his game lacked an end product and coupled with frequent injuries led to his decline at Man United.
Man United Exit
After having an unproductive, injury-marred season with David Moyes, Nani was sent back to Sporting CP on loan.
A change in environment proved to be very beneficial and Nani played some of the best football of his life. It was a timely reminder of his immense talent and potential. Surprisingly Louis Van Gaal did not want him back and Nani was sold to Sporting CP for a measly £4.25 million.
His growth curve at Sporting during his second stint at the club was always going upwards. He became the focal point of the team and won several plaudits for his performances.
Key Man for Portugal
All this while he was a silent and consistent performer for Portugal’s national team. He was overshadowed by Cristiano and got less credit than what he deserved. On the back of some great performances, Nani was in the team for Euros 2016 and played an instrumental part in Portugal winning the title.
Post-Euro 2016, there were several suitors who wanted Nani. A whole host of clubs across Europe were interested. In the end, it was Valencia who bagged him. His first season in La Liga was not very successful but there were several flashes of brilliance as always. All Manchester United fans remember him with fondness and wish him the best for his future.
At the age of 30, having won several titles in England, making more than 100 appearances for Portugal and won the Euros; Nani remains one of the best Portuguese players of his generation and an inspiration to millions.