An isolated figure sits consistently in the dugouts of Old Trafford, twiddling his thumbs, his head buried in his shoulders, cluelessly pondering as to where it all went wrong. Once being touted as the next Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Nani is now struggling to make Manchester United’s starting XI, making only 11 appearances so far this season. The Portuguese winger had, and still has, all the skills and tools that are needed to be a world class player. But it is the way in which you decide to implement those tools into your game, something Nani has more often than not been guilty of doing so poorly. Nani’s fall from grace has been a monstrous one to say the least, and what the world of football wants to know is ‘What exactly has happened to Luis Nani?’
The unforgiving game of football regularly sees players come and go. Consistency is a virtue, something that is vastly undervalued. Unfortunately, consistency can be a tormentor of many of the world’s most hyped-up players, and when a player competes too much at such a high level when too young, it can number their years of peak performances. Two prime examples of such a case would be Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott. Rooney and Walcott have been plagued by inconsistency in recent seasons, but they still manage to play well more often than not. Rooney has always managed to retain his effectiveness in front of goal, even if his all-round ability has deteriorated slightly since his younger years have passed him by. What Walcott has missed most of his professional career has been the ability to play that killer final ball regularly, and some would even point towards the fact he was being played so often at such a young age, as being a decisive factor in his capricious performances.
Nani is different to these two Englishmen in this aspect. He has a good game once in every 4 that he plays nowadays, and that’s with a stroke of luck. When he started out with United, he looked to be a particularly promising player for the Red Devils. He has put in a handful of virtuoso performances for United in years gone by, and one in particular against noisy neighbours Manchester City in the Community shield, scoring twice in the game and leading his side to a 3-2 victory. But he has been unable to recapture his initial form that he possessed what now feels like almost a decade ago. A bad day for the former Sporting Lisbon man at the office is excruciatingly painful and almost cringe-worthy to watch, as he seems to give the ball away for fun, along with throwing in a few unnecessary and extraneous tricks which usually tend to blow up in his face. Some would go as far to say that Luis Nani is comparable to yet another Portuguese trickster to come through the ranks at the Manchester Club. Yes, you guessed right. Or did you? It’s Bebe. The man who played in Portugal’s second division before changing up to Portugal’s Premier Division for five weeks, prior to being snatched up by Sir Alex Ferguson for an outrageous €9 million fee. An audacious sum of money for a player that was unproven in any way, shape or form possible.
Others also like to draw comparisons between Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, one of modern football’s greats, a living legend and a more than plausible advocate of the beautiful game. Where Ronaldo continuously excelled in his Premier League years, growing in ability and stature, Nani diminished in every single way scientifically possible. Nani’s best years are now behind him, and the 26 year old is now looking for a new suitor to come and save him from the Theatre Of Dreams (ironic, eh?). If you were to compare Nani and Ronaldo statistically in their first 100 Premier League games, you would be truly and utterly flabbergasted.
United purchased the two pace merchants from Lisbon (Nani for €25 million, Ronaldo €15 million) If you were unambiguous to football in general, you would have initially assumed that because of Nani’s price, he would be a better player surely? No, unfortunately for you that’s not the case.
The rise and demise of Luis Nani is certainly a talking point over the last couple years of English top-flight football, and there are no real answers that could convince someone as to why he has declined in his performances and ability so immensely. Is it confidence, personal problems, or something else that is getting in the way of Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha fulfilling his true potential? Who knows. Only he himself can know what has really happened in these last few agonizingly arduous twilight years of his career.