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
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

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test