Luis Nani exit: The curious case of the Manchester United winger

The Old Trafford career of Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha - the player unfairly billed as the next Cristiano Ronaldo - looks to be at an end

Amid the clamour for new recruits and myriad of reports of impending arrivals at Manchester United, the departure of Luis Nani on a season long loan has gone through a little too quietly.

The deal bringing in Argentina left-back Marcos Rojo has seen the player billed as 'next Cristiano Ronaldo' return to Sporting Lisbon - thus ending a strange seven-year spell at Manchester United.

Nani arrived at Old Trafford in 2007 at the age of 20 for around £17m, and comparisons were quickly drawn with his fellow countryman. The parallels were to prove as unfair as they were easy to draw. He was Portuguese, he had arrived from Sporting Lisbon, he dived, he was a winger and he loved a step-over or five.

Read more: United to push for Di Maria
United cannot afford not to move for Di Maria - Sam Wallace
Benatia transfer latest

Yet as he leaves the club, the early optimism that United had captured another Iberian gem has finally been extinguished after season-upon-season of infuriating inconsistency and dawning realisation that he was just nowhere near that level.

Watching Nani over the years, it was impossible to escape the feeling that the comparisons with Ronaldo hung around the winger's neck, weighing him down through all too many performances.

When he regularly failed to reach the ridiculously impossible standards set by arguably the greatest ever player to pull on a Manchester United shirt, Nani was perhaps unfairly called out. After all, while he looked up to the player who would become the most expensive in history, he never made the comparisons himself.

<b>Man Utd v Norwich, Saturday 3pm</b> <br/>
Man Utd began the season in seemingly unstoppable form however they have shown in their last two games that they are not infallible and were fortunate to draw with Basel midweek. While Norwich have achieved back-to-back victories it is difficult to see them avoiding defeat on their visit to Old Trafford. Man Utd hope to welcome back the rampaging Wayne Rooney after his hamstring injury as well as Javier Hernandez and must be favourites to record a big victory. <br/><br/><b>Recent results:</b>Norwich 2-0 Man Utd (09/04/2005, PL), Man Utd 2-1 Norwich (21/08/2004, PL)
<br/><br/><b>One to watch:</b> <b>Nani</b>, played his 100th game for the Red Devils in their recent 3-1 demolition of Chelsea. The diminutive Portuguese winger has begun to step out of the big shadow left by fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford and put in good performances on a regular basis. His pace and much improved delivery will be a huge danger for the visiting Canaries.  

When Ronaldo departed for Real Madrid in 2009 Manchester United fans hoped Nani would emerge from his shadow. And for a bit he did.

At the end of the 2010/11 season, Nani took home the Players' Player of the Year prize from the Manchester United awards ceremony. He also finished one per cent behind Javier Hernandez in the fans' poll.

Later that year Nani found himself included on the 23-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or. He was never going to win it but a season reaping 14 assists and 10 goals in all competitions hadn't gone unnoticed.

<b>Nani</b><br/>
Derided in the early stages of his United career as Ronaldo-lite, the petulant step-over lover took time to settle into his new role on the wing after his countryman's departure last summer but has made it his own since Christmas, almost leading United to a fourth successive title. Cristiano who?  

But Nani never matched those sort of figures again - and last season managed just one goal. When he netted at the World Cup over the summer it was a stat that didn't go unnoticed.

 

Manchester United are famous for treasuring their legends - but while statues are erected outside Old Trafford for the very best, the player whose looks were often compared to those of Michael Jackson will have to make do with the life-size marble statue of himself he allegedly keeps in his living room. That's all that 25 goals in 147 league appearances gets you.

Read more: Reus and Muller turned United down
Rojo switch to United confirmed
Usain Bolt says United have 'work to do'

Nani's return to Sporting Lisbon may just be a loan, but it seems unlikely he will ever return to Old Trafford. Moments will be remembered when he was truly brilliant - but the problem with Nani, they were only ever moments.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss