There seems little to speculate in the transfer of Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha away from Old Trafford this summer; a performance in its final act. The winger’s destination and magnitude of fee Manchester United collects in the process is that is left to play out. After all, Nani’s transfer has been an open secret after the 26-year-old’s least effective season at the club.
Seemingly bent on driving the player away from the club six years after a £17 million deal brought Nani to Manchester, United will probably take a much-reduced fee for the player who has little more than 12 months left on his contract. The proposed renewal, on the negotiating table for more than two years, has never been signed, with clear blue water been the player and club on valuation.
And with Monaco, Juventus and Galatasaray reportedly interested in the winger it seems this summer will finally end half-a-dozen frustrating years. With Nani goes a huge talent, almost completely unfulfilled since that 2007 move from Sporting.
United’s willingness to take far less than the £25 million Zenit St. Petersburg reportedly bid last winter says much. While the player’s entourage talked up a £160,000 per week contract in the autumn, United offered barely half for a player whose numbers have been good – the past campaign excepted – but whose performances are the epitome of inconsistency.
The casual flick gone wrong, a corner misplaced, a pass when the shot was on, and the strike taken with the team-mate well placed – Nani is a boy in a man’s skin, a player little developed in six campaigns under Sir Alex Ferguson’s tutelage. It is a rare story of the great Scot’s failure.
And so the negotiations begin, with Turkish champions Galatasaray offering just £6 million for the player this week – a sum seemingly rejected by new Old Trafford supremo Edward Woodward.
“We offered €7 million for him, but they didn’t accept,” said Galatasaray club chairman Unal Aysal. “We can’t give more than this. We are not going to follow Nani anymore. We can’t give more than €7 million for him. They want €10 million. Because of this he is not on our transfer list anymore.”
Meanwhile, Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute agency is actively hawking the player around leading clubs in Spain, Italy and France. Cimbom might be reluctant to part with more than £8 million for the 62-cap international, but it is a sum well within newly enriched Monaco’s budget. And while Nani rejected a move to Russia last winter the winger’s fall is such that his is a career on hold until a move materialises.
None of this is news, of course, although Nani’s decline is all the more disappointing following a productive campaign in 2011/12. While the player’s performances have always been erratic, the player contributed 12 goals and 13 assists to United’s cause as the Reds fell just short of claiming a 20th league title in 2011/12.
Those numbers are hard to ignore, and hugely expensive to replicate.
But just seven Premier League starts, four shots on goal, two assists and one goal tell the tale of a player no longer the productive creative hub. With just nine chances created from open play, passing accuracy below 80 per cent, and more than 40 per cent of attempted dribbles resulting in a loss of possession, Nani has rapidly evolved from match-winner to liability.
Yet, the player’s departure leaves United short in a area that became a significant point of failure in Ferguson’s squad last season. With Antonio Valencia out of sorts, Ashley Young injured for much of the campaign and Ryan Giggs ageing with some grace, United secured the Premier League despite an obvious weakness in wide areas.
The incoming Wilfried Zaha, who enjoyed an outstanding campaign for Crystal Palace in the south Londoners’ promotion season, may fill some of the void. But surely only a part, with the 20-year-old is still raw, and completely inexperienced at the highest level. Nimble feet and an eye for goal will ensure Zaha is a firm fans’ favourite in time, but the step up to Premier League level is always accompanied by culture shock.
Then there is Bébé, whose failure at Old Trafford is of such infamy that the winger’s name will forever be associated with outlandish mediocrity – a deal rotten from the start that began and will surely end with the aforementioned super-agent, Mendes.
Remarkably, Bébé’s reputation in Portugal is positive after a successful loan spell at Rio Ave in the latter half of the season, with Nani’s former club Sporting reportedly prepared to do a permanent deal to take the player home. Not unlike Nani, United will take a huge loss on Bébé when Mendes finally uncovers a buyer.
That is for later later this summer though, when United finally buries one of the most embarrassing episodes of Ferguson’s 26-year-long reign.
In the near term Nani’s future should also be resolved. “I have not yet decided where I am going or if I am going,” Nani told RTP last week. “In the next few days I will decide my future.”
Or to be more accurate: it will be determined for him.