Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha; if only his list of match winning performances was as long as his name. However, despite undoubted talent Nani (as he is more commonly known) has produced a Manchester United career to date lamentably characterised and beset by one thing: inconsistency.
Having joined the club on the 1St July 2007 from Sporting Lisbon, the winger has gone on to make 230 appearances, scoring 41 goals. Winning the Premier League and Champions League double in his first season with the club and converting his crucial penalty in the shoot-out in Moscow, Nani matured as a player and went on to collect United’s Player of the Year award following a stellar campaign in 2010/11 as the Old Trafford outfit secured their record 19th title.
The Portuguese man was rewarded with a nomination for the 2011 Ballon d’Or, which only highlights the winger’s true quality when he finds his top form. Unfortunately, through niggling injuries or otherwise, Nani has failed to push on and maintain those high standards and has become a point of frustration amongst his teammates and fans alike in recent years.
The frustration, of course, largely emanates from the obvious abundance of talent at the winger’s disposal, and having penned a new five-year deal in September 2013 it is obvious that despite erratic performances many at the club still feel that United’s no.17 has plenty to offer.
Regrettably, Nani was restricted to just 13 appearances last season through injury and on the 20th August 2014 the Portuguese winger returned to Sporting Lisbon on a one-year loan deal as part of a deal to bring defender Marcos Rojo to Old Trafford.
The loan may well signal the end of Nani’s time at Manchester United but there is always a possibility that a move away and consistent playing time may rejuvenate the winger and help him to re-discover his best form. The potential and ability has always been plain to see, but far too often consistent application has been found wanting.
His signing originally fell firmly in line with the mantra that Manchester United don’t buy stars, they make them. But by extension, the lamentable reality is that Nani is indicative of what has become patently obvious as a much larger issue at Old Trafford that has certainly come to a head following Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
The Red Devils’ decline in form over the last 12 months has led to widespread inquests in search of explanations. Despite a promising pre-season Van Gaal’s start to life at the helm has certainly brought Moyes’ tenure into perspective. For all the criticism levied at the Scot, it is obvious that the problems run much deeper and Nani’s career at United is a pertinent example of the club’s failings and lack of cohesion in the transfer market over recent years which in no small part is contributing to the Old Trafford outfit’s woes.
That is not to label Nani as a flop, he has certainly had his moments and even if consistency was never found, for most the potential and ability is obvious enough to have warranted his acquisition. Buying players like Nani is not the problem, you have to take risks with potential because without the Nanis and the Bebes you don’t get the Ronaldos and the Januzajs, but the club’s management thereafter surely has to come into question.
Many of the club’s often maligned players, the likes of Nani, Young, Valencia and Anderson all earn big wages. The consequence of this is that it becomes very difficult to move them on should they become surplus to requirements. Many eyebrows were raised at the winger’s new five-year deal last September, and rightly so.
For a period of 5 years towards the end of Ferguson’s tenure, Manchester United had a lower net spend on transfers than Stoke City and Aston Villa. That is not to say that investment was not made and this article is certainly not going to embark upon a Glazer debate, but the problems now are becoming increasingly apparent.
The truth is that a club of Manchester United’s stature have criminally underinvested in recent years and the majority of investments made, particularly towards the end of Ferguson’s tenure, have proven to have been poor ones. The Scot’s sheer brilliance papered over the cracks but the flaws in the Red Devils’ squad and planning have been brutally exposed over the last 12 months and, to a certain extent, Nani is a case-in-point.
Whilst the winger’s new deal may safeguard the receipt of a transfer fee, the scale of the wages offered make it difficult for interested clubs to produce a viable deal. The consequence is that during Nani’s one-year loan spell his wages will be paid in full by United.
There does not appear to have been much foresight at the club for sometime regarding incomings and outgoings. Even the suitability of the likes of Mata and Kagawa to United’s style of play have to come into question despite their obvious talent.
Incredibly, since Ronaldo’s departure the club’s three most valuable sales have been Zoran Tosic (£8.4m), Ben Foster (£6.2m) and Alex Buttner (£4.8m), whilst stellar names such as Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra and Berbatov have all been allowed to leave either on a free transfer or for nominal fees.
The previous spending and obvious quality of the present day Chelsea and Manchester City sides have necessitated huge investment in United’s squad and in this sense it is refreshing that this summer the club appear to have recognised this. Premiums and inflated prices will have to be paid but it is surely a lesser evil than continuing with a squad which has regrettably been exposed as woefully short.
Reports suggest that the likes of Kagawa, Hernandez, Cleverley, Lindegaard, Fellaini and Anderson may all follow Nani out of the Old Trafford exit door. The much mooted squad overhaul appears to be kicking into gear under Louis van Gaal of which Nani has fallen victim and the last few days of the transfer window should prove interesting viewing.
It is refreshing that the Dutchman possesses a clear and unwavering philosophy which should hopefully be reflected in any further acquisitions.
As for the curious case of Nani, talent, trickery and potential; oh what might have been