There will be a face familiar to Chelsea players on the wing for Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday night. Nani is back, seven years after leaving for Manchester United, trying to rediscover the form and confidence that made him one of Europe’s most exciting attackers.
In a sense, it is a strange move for a player as talented as Nani, who won four Premier League titles and a Champions League medal at Old Trafford. He was, after Cristiano Ronaldo left United, one of the most dangerous forwards in English football. And yet, this summer, after barely featuring in the past two seasons, he left in a makeweight loan deal as part of United’s purchase of Marcos Rojo.
But the issue with Nani has always been mental rather than technical. He needs to believe in himself again and it might well be that returning to his first club is the best way for him to get back to his best.
Sporting coach Marcos Silva said last night that Nani had “come home” to his old club. “It is easy for him to adapt: he knows his colleagues, as he grew up with them.” That is how Jose Mourinho sees it. “It must have been in special circumstances,” Mourinho said this week. “Sporting have a player of great quality in the best years of his career. Perhaps his aim is not to stay at Sporting until the end of his career, but to re-launch it and return to Manchester United. He must be very motivated in this new spell.”
The evidence suggests that Nani is starting to rediscover the joy of playing that can make him such a thrilling player. After having a penalty saved in his first game back, against Arouca, he has grown in recent weeks.
In the derby against Benfica, he uncharacteristically chased down the goalkeeper to create a goal for Islam Slimani. He scored against Maribor in the last round of Champions League games and scored a brilliant 35-yard strike against Gil Vicente. Chelsea must beware the familiar foe.Reuse content