When Manchester United signed Nani in 2007 he was the bright young prospect from Portugal.
He had all the skills, pace to burn and looked to be a man who would light up the world stage. Six summers on and reports are that Nani is heading for the Old Trafford exit door.
So, what will be his legacy from his time in the Premier League?
During Nani’s first two seasons at United he played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and the comparisons were inevitable. Same nationality, same position and same type of player. In his first few games Nani looked to be a bright spark, inconsistent but capable of producing magic out of nothing.
As his first season passed, however, he rather blended into the background; those flashes of brilliance becoming more and more rare. He seemed to be lost in the shadow of Ronaldo, who was producing the form of his life. In truth, he has never really climbed out of those shadows.
In his second season at United Nani managed just 13 league games as he was increasingly sidelined given his poor form. Upon Ronaldo’s transfer to Real Madrid in 2009, all eyes turned to Nani to step up and fill the boots of his compatriot. Initially he didn’t, nothing appeared to have changed.
Halfway through that season, however, Nani began to find consistency. His form was dramatically improved and he got a long run in the side as a result. Over the next two seasons Nani became a key part of the United setup and, during this spell, nobody in the Premier League could match him for assists. He seemed to have finally stepped out of Ronaldo’s shadow and found his feet at Manchester United.
However that has not lasted and Nani is now a bit-part player for Sir Alex Ferguson, partly due to injury but largely due to poor form. Across his six years at Old Trafford, Nani has never quite made the grade.
The fact can’t be ignored that Nani has a rather impressive CV since arriving in England. He has three Premier League medals, a League Cup medal and a Champions League title to his name. He has made some important contributions for United, scoring key goals at key times and providing assists that have been pivotal to the success of the team.
Overall, though, if this is to be his last season at United, Nani will be remembered as a nearly man; an enigma who has all the talent but never quite made the cut in English football.
Despite his many skills and tricks and his ability to rifle the ball in from 30 yards, Nani has not lived up to his potential and I dare say there won’t be too many United fans sad to see him leave the club this year.
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