Super Nani Ain’t No Flop
He’s left England with three league titles and a Champions League triumph. England’s Frank Lampard, a Premier League legend.
He’s left England with four league titles and a Champions League triumph. Portugal’s Nani, a Premier League flop.
That’s the narrative, right? Look, I’m not arguing that Fenerbahce’s new signing should go down in the pantheon of Premier League greats. But surely Nani’s achievements deserve at least a grudging respect from those for whom the winger became a somewhat cartoon villain during his time at Manchester United.
There was a time, early in his Old Trafford career, where many felt he had the potential to become another Ronaldo – not least Nani himself. Sure he didn’t live up to that, but who could?
He was often criticised for his lack of goals, but Nani was a winger – his job was to make goals and that he did.
His record of 49 Premier League assists is the same as Dennis Bergkamp’s, who played double the amount of league games. Whisper it quietly, but this assist record also surpasses those of United legends David Beckham and, yes, Ronaldo. Indeed, his goals-per-game and assists-per game record also put Ryan Giggs in the shade, albeit of course over a shorter period of time.
Yes, he could be inconsistent. Yes, he could be infuriating. Yes, he could be petulant. But then, isn’t Raheem Sterling, who’s yet to achieve anything in the game but is rated at £50 million?
The fact that United let Nani go for £4.3 million highlights the club’s poor sales record in the transfer market, rather than the Portuguese’s true value. United always seem to overpay and undersell, and Nani is another case to add to the long line of recent departures like Dimitar Berbatov, Shinji Kagawa and Wilfried Zaha, that they really should have got more for.
At times last season, United were crying out for someone with his unpredictability and ability to terrorise defenders. It seems a shame that Louis van Gaal just didn’t fancy him, as a manager that can revive Ashley Young’s career could surely have done the same with Nani’s.
A rejuvenated Nani on the right wing would certainly have been an upgrade on Antonio Valencia, whose trademark cross to the shins of the nearest defender resulted in just three assists last season.
In a recent interview, Roy Keane mentioned that certain players go to the club and have a good season or two, and cited Dwight Yorke as an example. He could easily have said Nani. The winger’s scintillating form in the 2010/11 season won him the Player’s Player of the Year award at the club and helped catapult his side to the Premier League title and Champions League final. He may not have reached those heights again but to consider him a flop is absurd.
He’s been criticised for not reaching his potential. But maybe he has. Maybe his potential was a trophy-laden career at one of the world’s top clubs with 86 caps for his country. Maybe a lot of more lauded, and respected, players would give anything to reach this sort of potential.