By David Manteigas (Sporting Lisbon supporter)
Sporting Clube de Portugal played six games in September, four in the Primeira Liga and two in the Champions League. Nani has played 90 minutes in all of them and another 90 minutes for Portugal , which amounts to an impressive seven games in less than a month. It was an astonishing return to his homeland for the highly talented winger. As predicted, Nani has been one of the shining stars of Primeira Liga and the most impressive player in Sporting CP squad. Individually, Nani has accounted for three of the ten goals scored by Sporting CP in those six games. Besides the goals, Nani has played an important role on and off the field assuming the role of leader that Sporting CP needed and a mentor for the younger players from the Academy.
In the UEFA Champions League, Maribor equalised in the 92nd minute and a first half goal from Matić was enough to give Chelsea FC a 1-0 victory. Sporting’s only one goal in the two games came from, guess who, Nani. The goal against Maribor was considered “goal of the round” of the UCL (https://www.stretfordendarising.com/forum/f6/loan-watch-2014-15-nani-sporting-lisbon-7137/#post114275). Nani was impressive against Maribor, accounting for two more shots on target and a couple of assists missed by Slimani and Carrillo. He didn’t play as well against Chelsea, as he failed to score or have any indirect intervention to a goal. However, he had a couple of efforts where Courtois needed to be watchful and a foul by Felipe Luis could easily have resulted in a penalty kick. He was a constant threat for Felipe Luis and Azpilicueta and he was the most dangerous player for the Chelsea defence to contend with. However, he failed to support the full back with the intensity and offensive quality required against Chelsea. He also had a couple of misplaced passes and dribbles that triggered some quick counterattacks from Chelsea.
Nani has made light work of defences in the Primeira Liga. He has the technique and creativity that was seen in his first spell at Sporting, and an additional dose of experience at the highest level. His decision making has been boosted by his time at Manchester United and that has made him a more incisive player. He now uses his ability for the benefit of the team and he’s a more supportive player than he was previously. Sporting fans that didn’t follow his career at Manchester United will surely have been surprised by how much his attitude has improved on the field. In his final season before joining Manchester United he showed himself to be individualistic and overly attached to the ball. His games for Portugal were, like Ronaldo, far below the level he presented at Manchester United and not an indicator of his evolution. It is a very sad case, if it wasn’t for injuries Nani would perhaps be competing with Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Bale or Suarez for the most important individual honours.
Nani scored two goals in away encounters against Gil Vicente and Penafiel respectively, with Sporting winning both games 0-4. In between, Sporting had two draws against Porto and Belenenses. Nani was consistently one of the best players in the four games. In Portugal there is a big gap of quality between the better and the worst teams, leading to occasionally uninteresting games between the big three and the teams near the bottom of the league. The games against Belenenses, Gil Vicente and Penafiel were three examples of that. All those teams played completely defensive and offered little attacking threat, with the expectation of a single goal that earned a draw for Belenenses. Nani, being the most dangerous player at Sporting and due to his international status was paid special attention by defences; full backs were often covered by central defenders and wingers. Nevertheless, Nani’s creativity and ability in 1v1 was always a big concern for them. Regardless of the special attention presented to him, he was capable of inventing dangerous shots, passes that undid defensive organisation or dribbles that unnerved the composure of defenders. The goal he scored against Penafiel was a brilliant finish, he demonstrated perfect technical execution after an excellent assist by one of Sporting’s most technically talented players, the Colombian Fredy Montero (https://www.stretfordendarising.com/forum/f6/loan-watch-2014-15-nani-sporting-lisbon-7137/#post115292).
Against Porto, the biggest challenge Sporting had faced in the season (and three days before the game against Chelsea) Nani proved himself once again with an amazing performance, lacking only a goal to reward his display. He played throughout the entire field, alternating with Carrillo and João Mário between all the front positions, although full back Jonathan Silva was occasionally isolated, making his task difficult against Tello and Quaresma.
Nani’s presence has also aided the development of André Carrillo, a promising winger at Sporting. Carrillo has played with freedom and has been able to display his qualities since Nani’s arrival. Carrillo has provided two assists and three goals so far this season. The two are quite similar in physical and technical aspects and the growth in Carrillo’s understanding of the game and technical aspects is evident. Here is a fruitful relationship and one of the most prominent examples of Nani’s influence off the field.
Undeniably, Nani’s presence in the Portuguese League has excited not only Sporting CP fans but all football fans in Portugal. In September Nani has spread magic in the Primeira Liga, and it can only improve his form, confidence and the chance of returning to the place where he belongs: the first team of Manchester United FC.
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David is a member of the SCP Forum.
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