It’s time for Nani to shine.

As Manchester United prepare to take on FC Basel tonight without the inspirational Wayne Rooney, down in Madrid, Ronaldo is once again ready to lead his Real Madrid side in the Champions League against Ajax. To many Manchester United fans the day that Cristiano Ronaldo left the club was a day marked with disbelief. Had Manchester United finally become a selling club? Were Real Madrid now a bigger club than United? More importantly how do you replace someone of such talent? It was pretty much panic stations for everyone but Sir Alex Ferguson.

There are not many teams in world football that would be able to sustain the loss of such talent and still continue in the same way United have. We have seen what has happened to Arsenal since Fabregas left. Usually, the exit of a star player seems to send shockwaves through a club, but Fergie didn’t let this happen at United. Ferguson was able to swallow the loss of one of the world’s top 3 players because he knew he had someone in reserve that could be equally as potent a threat as Ronaldo if he was able to fulfil his potential.

3 seasons on from the departure of Ronaldo, it seems as though Nani has started to mature like a fine wine and can become a truly world-class player for United. Nani played with Ronaldo, but may now be ready to eclipse what CR7 did during his 6 seasons at Old Trafford. Nani recently passed a landmark for United of 100 games and a lot has been made of his head-to-head stats over 100 games compared to that of Ronaldo, but his record should give 24-year old Nani all the confidence he could ever need to step up to the plate.

Ronaldo

 

Nani

First 100

Appearances

100

6705

Minutes played

6797

19

Goals scored

19

352.9

Minutes per goal

357.7

98

Shots on target

89

148

Shots off target

141

39.8 per cent

Shooting accuracy

38.7 per cent

7.7 per cent

Shots-to-goal conversion rate

8.2 per cent

12

Assists

33

135

Chances created (including assists)

213

Stats are facts and the fact is that Nani has outperformed Ronaldo in terms of end-product over these 100 games. The best bit about these stats is that they give as close a like-for-like comparison as you ever going get between two players in similar positions; the major difference is that Nani has played an extra 92 minutes of football. Clearly, the standout statistic is the superior quantity of assists and chances that Nani has created. Both players operate as out-and-out wingers for United but the fact that Nani has just under 3 times the amount of assists and has created a hatful more chances may go some way in justifying Fergie’s decision to let Ronaldo leave.

Nani seems to have always lived in the shadows of Ronaldo and this is no surprise considering the similarities in their lives. Nani started off at the same club Ronaldo did, Sporting Clube de Portugal, making his debut in the 2005/06 season, the same year Ronaldo was voted FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year whilst playing for United. Nani played more times for Sporting in this season than Ronaldo did the whole of his career, playing 36 times and scoring 5 goals. Nani’s second season at Sporting yielded similar results playing 40 times and scoring 6 goals, but it was this second season at Sporting where people started to really take note of what a special talent Nani could be. Nani started to star for Sporting in the Champions League, helped take the club to domestic glory and began to pick up personal performance awards along the way.

It was probably these two seasons, plus Ronaldo’s success, that meant Nani would cost United €10.5m more than Ronaldo did 4 years earlier. When you compare the head-to-head stats over 100 games with the transfer fees paid for each player, Ronaldo cost €1.25m per assist and Nani cost €772.72k per assist, showing that despite having an inflated fee, Nani was better value for money over the 100 games.

So far this season Wayne Rooney has taken a lot of plaudits, but it is the contribution of Nani that should be as equally noted. Following United’s win over Chelsea Sir Alex gushed: “Nani’s marvellous. He was brilliant — absolutely brilliant. He’s a terrific player and he’s starting to mature. We’re going to get the best years out of him, no doubt”. On current evidence I think he is right. In the absence of Rooney against Stoke it was Nani that put in a solid performance and this looks set to continue in tonight’s Champions League game.

Nani has a rags-to-riches story that seems to have grounded him and made him even more determined. At one point it seemed he didn’t have much of a future at United, but recently he has been inspirational, from his two goals in the Charity Shield against Manchester City he has never looked back causing havoc against Chelsea and Arsenal. Nani himself says “That’s one dream I’ve got: (is) to be the best in the world” so if you watch him in tonight’s Champions League match don’t be surprised if you see signs that this is starting to come true.

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  1. Gaz Peters says:

    Nani is the man, he has shown that he is a big player for us and can play more freely again after we signed Ash Young to take some of the pressure off him. We have so many exciting players the rest can only be jelous.

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