Lets face it – if Nani had lived up to his potential and early expectations, he wouldn’t be playing for Sporting CP in 2015. His brilliant goal against Gil Vicente, the best we’ve seen this season in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, is a brilliant reminder of how good he can be. The problem is it doesn’t happen all that often.
Nani isn’t Cristiano Ronaldo, despite wanting to be that good and successful real bad. He’s a winger who is at his best when he cuts to the middle and creates all sorts of problems for opponents that way. He scores most of his goals that way, but he tends to get confused and a little bit less than efficient when the opportunity calls for being direct and simple.
At Sporting, the club he grew up in, he seems to be finding a second life to his football career. Nani isn’t exactly tearing the league apart – he has scored four goals, adding five assists in league matches, while doing a bit better in the Champions League with four goals and two assists in five opportunities. But the most important thing is that he’s playing and someone is relying on him, unlike his final days at Manchester United.
Nani was never as good as the hype, or as good as those around him told him he was. He had, probably a dominant season and change for Manchester United, moving in and out of the lineup the rest of the time, shuffling between brilliant goals and dribbles on some days to looking like the most selfish bastard on the planet on others, making mistake after mistake in frustrating succession.
The most memorable thing he did over the last two or three seasons was get sent off in a Champions League match with a high kick against Real Madrid, although it probably wasn’t intentional. For a player in the peak of his career (Nani turned 28 a few months ago), that’s slightly embarrassing, especially considering what he’s capable of, and where he was playing until last season.
Despite his résumé under Alex Ferguson (lets not mention his non existent contribution under David Moyes), there’s no shame in playing for Sporting and in Portugal. Some players need to keep it real – don’t jump above your station. Nani wasn’t born to be a star for one of the big clubs in Europe. He’s either a complementary player on one of them, something he couldn’t live with, or a star for a smaller club. Realizing it in time and not letting it go to his head for a second time is just as important as glory on the world’s biggest stage.