Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha – or Nani for his shorter, simpler to remember name, has enjoyed a resurgence in form and confidence since his loan move from parent club, Manchester United to his former team, Sporting, as part of the deal that sent defender Marcos Rojo to Old Trafford.
Various social media outlets went into meltdown last weekend as Nani scored an incredible 30-yard screamer as Sporting overcame relegation-threatened Gil Vicente 2-0 at the Estádio José Alvalade to maintain their third position in the Primeira Liga standings. The 28-year old who wears the number 77 shirt, has scored eight goals in 24 appearances for Sporting this season, and has been one of the finest players in the league so far.
So what does the future hold for Nani? The man himself has said on various occasions to the media that he expects to return to Old Trafford for next season, but do United really want him back? Will he fit into Louis van Gaal’s plans? Sporting fans would obviously love to have the Portuguese international on the books of their club permanently, but is Nani prepared to take the necessary wage cut so that his childhood team can afford their loan asset? Another consideration is that United could decide to cash in on their player and send him to another team. Here we will discuss some of these options in more detail.
Manchester United agreed a new five-year contract with Nani in the 2012-13 season, but after numerous indifferent performances since at the Theatre of Dreams, it was decided that the Portuguese star would join Sporting Lisbon as a makeweight to bring Argentinian defender, Marcos Rojo to Old Trafford. Nani returned home to a hero’s welcome – hordes of Sporting fans gathered at Lisbon airport to greet their man, and the player has provided several moments of brilliance to reward the faith showed by his supporters this season so far.
He is still a United player though, and it will be very interesting to see how Louis van Gaal decides to play his hand with the wing wizard when the loan deal expires in the summer. It does seem likely however, that Nani will have to leave Old Trafford to obtain regular football as the Dutch manager’s mind could already be made-up on the Portuguese star by sending him away this season.
Another choice for Nani would be to return to Sporting on a permanent deal, but that possibility is far from certain due to his expensive contract in Manchester. His current earnings at United are around five million euros per-season - which is reportedly to be over 25% of Sporting’s annual budget on wages and signings. It would be an extremely difficult deal for the powerbrokers at Sporting to conclude, but their fans will be hoping, and praying that a deal can be struck to bring their hero home on a permanent basis.
It can be assured that van Gaal will be closely monitoring the progress of his loan man in Lisbon, as he will seek to determine Nani’s position within Old Trafford at the end of this campaign.
The most probable ending for Nani is a move away from Old Trafford to another high-profile European league. United would be surely unwilling to let their player join another Premier League club, while the Portuguese wide-man would surely court interest from clubs in Italy, Spain and Germany, who could be more able to match his financial demands.
Juventus have been linked with a move for Nani on several occasions in recent months – and that move could be perfect match here with Champions League football as a virtual guarantee. Ex-United team-mate Patrice Evra has settled in nicely in Turin, and Nani could possibly join his French friend this summer – if his parent club decides to sell.