Looking Closer: Luis Nani

It was confirmed on Monday morning, by Mark Bowen no less, that Stoke are interested in bringing Fenerbahce’s Nani back to the Premier League, despite the player apparently agreeing to join Spanish outfit Valencia. Amid the uncertain future and elongated contract saga of Marko Arnautovic, Stoke are actively looking to prepare themselves with a Plan B should the Austrian look to move to pastures new. Nani certainly fits that bill: he has plenty of Premier League experience, is a box of tricks and, most importantly, is direct.

Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, or Nani, is a 29 year old forward from Portugal. Nani began his career at Sporting Lisbon, before making a colossal (at the time) £22m move to Manchester United as a mere 20 year old. He scored 40 goals in 230 appearances and eight seasons with the Red Devils. The arrival of Louis van Gaal saw Nani shipped back to Lisbon in 2014 on a season long loan, and then sold completely to Fenerbahce the following season. Last season he scored 8 goals in 28 league games with his Turkish club and helped them to finish second in the table. He is also a regular figure for his national team and is currently representing Portugal during Euro 2016, at the time of writing this they are due to play Wales in the semi-final on Wednesday.

Nani can play on either wing and as a secondary striker, although features predominantly on the wings. His most notorious trait is his dribbling skills: there are countless videos on YouTube of him humiliating opponents and, according to transfermarkt.com, his preferred foot is simply listed as ‘both’. He’s also got the end product to be able to convert the open space he creates into threats on the opponent’s goal, whether it’s setting up a teammate or going for glory himself. As mentioned earlier, he got 8 goals in 28 games last season, a similar rate Arnautovic achieved last term, albeit in a less demanding league. Nani’s set pieces are also exemplary, an area that Stoke struggled with last season despite having multiple competent takers. Perhaps an argument against Nani might be he selfishness: there’s very little wrong with wanting to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and carrying your team forward, but sometimes it’s not your day and his arrogance may hinder rather than help at times. Indeed, one of Nani’s most famous YouTube clips is of him stealing Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational chip against Spain, for it only to be ruled out for offside anyway! Nani is also 29 years old, far from the young prodigy that England was used to back when he played for United. This means he may deteriorate physically over time, which opens to debate whether he can keep producing the goods long term.

A potential Arnautovic exit would leave some pretty big shoes to fill and, should Stoke want that talent replaced immediately, would need to sign a proven talent in order to do so. Nani has performed in the Premier League before and would also return with added experience and maturity. He brings the kind of tenacity that Stoke missed during some stages of last season and he’d be a name that the opposition are afraid of seeing on the team sheet, he would add to the list of Champions League winners within the Potteries. He’s also versatile enough to cover many positions for Stoke, another area which they seemed to be lacking in last season cursed with injury. Once again, Nani’s arrival may not prove to be a long term replacement for anyone that may depart, however Mark Hughes is clearly adamant on bringing in a young winger to deputise two senior players. Should the likes of Ramadan Sobhi or Jack Grealish join Stoke alongside Nani, surely Stoke are just as prepared to take on the Premier League as they were last season. For those unconvinced by Nani, think about that he’s done for a club like Manchester United, now think about what he could do for a club like Stoke.

The future of Nani appears to be completely down to the player himself. Reports last week emerged that Nani had agreed to join Valencia and the deal looked done and dusted. This latest approach by Stoke is an attempt to hijack the move at the last minute and the club would be trying to convince the player and his representatives to join them over Valencia; rather than staying at Fenerbahce, who seem to not be objected to selling him. However, Stoke have proved to be a more attractive outfit than other big European clubs before: Xherdan Shaqiri chose Stoke over a host of other options. The reasons for this may include the amount of money the Premier League has, the playing time he may get, the attraction of returning the the Premier League itself and also working under Mark Hughes: which seems to have been a very persuasive reason for any player that has joined Stoke in recent years. Valencia also finished 12th in La Liga last season, which means there usual banana skin of European football does not apply against Stoke in this case. Little old Stoke City many just be a more attractive proposition after all. I’m sure most fans would like Arnautovic to stay and continue to shine for his current club, but the prospect of him being replaced by Nani isn’t exactly a disaster.

Here’s the video you’ll only go and look for anway:

Go back five years, would anyone have ever thought that Stoke could have signed Nani? Didn’t think so…

Written by Ben Rowley

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