By David Manteigas (Sporting Lisbon supporter)
7 games, 590 minutes, 4 assists, 4 goals. Nani, who else? He continues to perform at an exceptional standard. In October he played 2 games against Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions League, 2 games (Penafiel and Marítimo FC) in the Primeira Liga, 1 game against Porto FC in the Portugal Cup and 2 games for the National Team, against France and Denmark.
In the Champions League, Sporting CP lost the first game against Schalke 04 4-3, thanks to a penalty kick in the last minute after playing 60 minutes with 10 players and recovering from a 3-1 score. Nani scored his goal from a pre-rehearsed training-ground set piece. João Mário surprised the Schalke 04 team by passing the ball to the edge of the 18 yard-box to an unmarked Nani, whose scuffed effort opened the scoring (CLICK HERE to see a Vine of the goal). After Mauricio was given a second yellow card, Nani worked hard to fulfil defensive duties, successfully helping the full back Jonathan Silva to stop Obasi and Draxler. He played an important part in the recovery of the team, as he assumed the role as on-field field captain and encouraged his colleagues throughout. His efforts were fruitless due to an error from the goal line referee, who deemed that Jonathan Silva had used his arm to clear the ball, when in-fact the ball had hit the defender in the face. Choupo-Moting converted the penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage time.
The return fixture at Estádio Alvalade XXI was happier affair for Nani and Sporting CP fans. Nani was an influential figure, scoring 1 goal and providing an assist. The assist for Jefferson’s goal was absolutely brilliant. Nani held the ball and waited until he had the attention of 3 Schalke 04 defenders before he released the ball to Jefferson, who was unmarked and scored with an excellent strike. Incredibly, Nani wasn’t included in UCL team of round, even though his performance was one of the most impressive of the round. Goalpoint.pt, a Portuguese blog on football statistics, published an article analyzing Nani during the game against Schalke, available at this page.
Nani has 3 goals and 1 assist in UCL in the 4 rounds played so far.
In the Portugal Cup game against Porto at Estádio do Dragão (where Sporting CP last won in 2007 during Nani’s previous spell at Sporting CP) he was again one of the best performers of the game, scoring Sporting’s second goal with a brilliantly placed effort from the edge of the penalty area (CLICK HERE to see a Vine of the goal). He was a constant headache for Porto’s full backs either on the left, right or centre of the pitch (CLICK HERE to see GIFs of Nani’s performance vs. Porto). In the Primeira Liga he provided 2 assists in the 4-2 victory against Marítimo and he scored the final goal in a 4-0 win over Penafiel.
One of Nani’s strongest attributes is his decision making, an aspect that has greatly improved in the last few years. The improvement was particularly evident in the big games against Schalke 04 and Porto, where he created and average of 3 goal opportunities per game (besides the goals and assists) and had an acceptable number of ball losses for his position on the pitch. As expected due to his recent performances, the national and international press started to publish news that assumed Van Gaal wanted Nani back at Manchester United FC in January. Nevertheless, there is a remote chance of this happening as the contract between the two clubs have clauses guarding against an early return to Manchester.
For now, Sporting CP and Portuguese fans are enjoying Nani’s impressive return to his homeland. We all expect Nani to maintain his form and return to Manchester United at the end of the season with some titles and ready to assume his place as one of the best players in the world.
David is a member of the SCP Forum.
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