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Nani: Sporting Connection Set To See Nani Thrive At The World Cup

LNPortugal go into their eighth successive major tournament at the upcoming World Cup. Reaching three semi-finals (Euro 2000, WC 2006 and Euro 2012) and one final (Euro 2004) in the last decade and a half is a remarkable achievement for a country that is among the nani poorest and smallest in Western Europe.

Hopes of matching or even bettering that performance in Brazil very much rest on one man’s shoulders, the ex Manchester United number 7, Cristiano Ronaldo. But the key to how far Portugal go in the tournament could lie in how well the supporting cast of the current World Player of Year perform, not least another player who trod the same path from Sporting’s Alvalade stadium to Old Trafford.

Nani’s big money move to the English giants in the summer of 2007 took many by surprise. The size of the fee, the pressure to emulate the success of his compatriot and the obvious raw edges, notwithstanding his outstanding talent, were all causes for concern. Several Portuguese analysts opined he had made the switch too soon. Those fears proved unfounded as Nani settled quickly to become an integral part of three successive EPL title-winning teams, with a Champions League trophy thrown in for good measure.

“I feel I’m at the height of my ability. I genuinely believe I can become the best player in the world,” he said in 2010. Today, aspiring to take the crown of his great friend and international team-mate appears a distant dream. Injury and loss of form has seen Nani’s career stall badly in the last two years.

Thankfully for Portugal’s fans, his struggles at club level have had little impact on his displays whenever he pulls on the Seleção shirt. Nani complements Ronaldo perfectly and has consistently thrived with the extra space afforded by opponents double or triple marking the man on the opposite flank. His magnificent display and astonishing goal in the crunch match against Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Euro 2012 qualification play-off, and a similarly sparkling performance in the do-or-die match versus the Netherlands in the tournament proper were high points exemplifying his importance to the team.

His forgettable campaign for United this season has had little or no effect on his status in coach Paulo Bento’s eyes. Nani took the captain’s armband in Ronaldo’s absence for Portugal’s final group qualifying match against Luxembourg, celebrating the occasion with another fine goal.

The strong Bento-Ronaldo-Nani axis is rooted in Sporting. Bento was a team-mate of Ronaldo’s at the Lisbon club. Upon hanging up his boots he coached the youth team containing Nani to the national championship, subsequently taking over the reins of the senior side and thrusting Nani straight into the first team – with conspicuous success for player and manager.

Bento has given Nani what he needs to thrive. Absolute trust in his capacities. With Portugal lacking a naturally creative playmaker, Nani’s contribution could be vital to prevent an over-reliance on Ronaldo and propel the nation to another memorable tournament.

As the second week of Portugal’s World Cup training camp drew to a close, Bento made a point of singling out the winger for special praise.

“Nani had a very, very good Euro 2012. He was highly influential on our game, not only from the attacking point of view, but also in relation to how we defended. It’s true that this year he’s had difficulties with fitness and because of the Manchester United manager’s choices. But in this training camp he has been in excellent shape, has trained 100% of the time and has shown an extremely positive attitude.”

Portugal’s probable starting XI (4-3-3):
Rui Patrício (Sporting), João Pereira (Valencia), Pepe (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), William Carvalho (Sporting), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), João Moutinho (Monaco), Nani (Manchester United), Hélder Postiga (Lazio), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

To read this article in full, as well as another 20 articles on United players at the World Cup, check out the RoM World Cup preview, with all profits going to charity.

About Tom Kundert

Tom Kundert is from the English midlands but has made Lisbon his home since 1994. Creator and editor-in- chief of and co-author of the book “A Journey Through Portuguese Football”. He writes for World Soccer Magazine, FourFourTwo, The Mirror and a variety of on-line and print publications as a Portuguese football expert. Follow @portu_goal on Twitter.

View all posts by Tom Kundert »



  1. Sam says:

    Nano seems to be in good form approaching the world cup. Two assists and a beautiful disallowed goal yesterday. Sincerely hope he hits his form and doesnt leave. But you never truly know with Mani nowadays.

  2. Sam says:

    Nani *, damn auto correct

  3. Sam says:

    Off topic: Muller signs new Bayern contract. Great player , but never truly believed he would join us .

  4. Neil Moore says:

    Wow the media make me sick. First off the cunts on Talksport wanting Rooney out now saying Welbeck injury a blessing in disguise because the world class fag Stirling can play. Yeah and leave Ingerlund wide open. In their minds him and Lambert are top drawer.

    Then we’ve the Star saying ” United agree terms for Shaw”. Err no we haven’t stop lying. Then ” United launch 56 million for Cavani”. Again bullshit. How and why are they paid for this shite? I could do their fucking job.

    Then it’s ” X , y or z player SNUBS united”. Oh fuck off. Latest being Muller. I don’t even rate him anyway he’s a fairy. Not what we need.

  5. Tommy says:

    Portugal have no chance of winning the world cup, Ronaldos the best in the world but the supporting cast is not good enough as a whole. If they play against Spain, Brazil, Argentina or Germany they will lose, its that simple, Its a shame for Ronaldo that Portugal dont provide him with better team mates, the fact Postiga still gets a game for Portugal speeks volumes, its a mystery why a country of Portugals standing never produces top quality centre forwards, hope Nani has a good tournament, like I hope all the United lads do and all come back injury free, @Sam, yea mate I seen last nights game and it was an imprssive 25 mins from Nani, its a shame that goal was disalowed it was a quality team move

  6. Tommy says:


    Dosent surprise me with the biased press, talksport is one of the worst out their, they have wife beater Collymore as a pundit, says it all

  7. Neil Moore says:

    Tommy. Stan is the biggest cunt of them all. Doesn’t let anyone have a say. Fancy being glad Welbeck is injured eh? Stirling won’t do fuck all on the biggest stage. Stevie Me and Henderson won’t do shit. Worst Ingerlund side by a country mile in all my 39 years. Fucking lambert is a pub player.

  8. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Neil, you’re right about Collymore, he really is a complete moron. The same can be said for Adrian Durham as well, though he deliberately sets out to wind people up and reel in the callers who choose to bite.

    As much as I don’t like the talksport crew I agree with them for once. Welbeck should not be starting ahead of Sterling. I don’t think it will make much difference Saturday night in the sweltering conditions who plays, but I’d have a trio of Lallana, Sterling and Barkley behind Sturridge up top with Stevie Me himself and Henderson behind them.

    Our boys were shocking last season despite the fact the hapless Moyes was at the helm. Welbeck does a lot of running around, but his affect on the game from an attacking point of view is minimal. Sterling and Sturridge are way ahead of him.

  9. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Reason why I would start Sturridge ahead of Rooney is again purely based on the seasons performances of both players. If Rooney just played up top on his own and stopped running back and generally getting in the way of his own team mates he’d be a far greatest asset. Paul Scholes was absolutely right about him in that sense that he needs to stop chasing lost causes and stay in the fucking box.

  10. Tommy says:

    @Gary and Neil

    We will see a lot more of collymore next season, hes signed up to join Match of the day

  11. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Tommy, bloody hell. I think I’d rather Hansen stayed than Collymore come in. He went on some bizarre rant on twitter recently expressing his views how the British have are basically still oppressing Scotland and Ireland. I think he’d been on the drink that night. He was coming out with some embarrassing stuff.

  12. Tommy says:


    Youre right it wont make any difference who plays but id play Welbeck all day long over sterling, hes probably the best at holding up the all in the England squad and in conditions were you need as much of the ball as you can get then his hold up play can be useful, I was going to suggest maybe having Jones do a man to ma marking job on Pirlo similar to Park but in those conditions he will have a heart attack chasing all over

  13. Tommy says:


    Hes on MOTD2 which not everyone watches so hopefully he wont appear on the main show on a saturday too often, mind you if Jason Roberts gets on it on a saturday night then anyone can

  14. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Tommy, the motd team is pretty poor to be honest. I actually enjoy Adrian Charles and Roy Keane as a pairing for itv. Charles is the only person I’ve known to get a laugh out of Keano.

  15. Tommy says:


    Youre the only person ive ever heard who likes Chiles, Hes so painfully boring to listen too, ITV and BBC have shocking pundits and commentators, We dont only have to endure Lee Dixon in the studio but he will be one of the commentators in Brazil. Oh dear

  16. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Andrian Charles is alright. Comes across as a decent human being unlike the majority of them. Yea Lee Dixon seems like an alright guy, but there’s nothing going on behind that constant perplexed expression on his face.

  17. Tommy says:


    Maybe Adrian Charles is entertaining but the Martin Clunes lookalike Adrian Chiles is certaintly not lol, he just shouldnt be on TV, ive no doubt hes a decent guy, he even goes to watch his local club West Brom and sits with the fans

  18. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Tommy, to be fair sky are just as bad. When I was 18 I worked part time up Luton airport for a bit and twice Andy Gray and Martin Tyler came through the departure lounge before heading of for games. Andy Gray was actually very decent and happy to chat to people. Martin Tyler on the other hand was on obnoxious prick with a superiority complex.

    They came through the bar I was working in and it was heaving in departures as usual, but Martin Tyler thought he’d throw in “hurry up I’ve got a football match to commentate on” to one of the staff. He’s a complete arsehole believe me.

    The worst at sky has got to be Geoff Shreeves though. What a weasel of a person he is. His conduct his shameless at times.

  19. Gary Mitrovic says:

    I’ve still not backed a top goal scorer yet. I’ve had a ten pound double though on the England Italy game to be a draw and Holland to beat Spain which returns £150. I actually don’t think the Dutch will win, but it gives me a reason to cheer on Van Gaal’s boys Friday night and you never know, Switzerland did Spain in their opener in 2010.

  20. Tommy says:


    I know Andy Gray meant to be a vile human being, I remember reading about him a couple of years back in La Manga sexually harrasing women, getting pissed and trying to drag woment to his hotel screaming do you know who I am.

  21. Tommy says:

    Cant see the Dutch getting anything from Spain, their defence is incredibly weak, I can only see a couple oif goals derfeat at least

  22. Tommy says:

    All the pressures on Brazil, ive got a feeling they will flop, they will be riots if they dont win this world cup, The most expensive world cup of all time in a country that financially is struggling if they dont win it, they will be trouble in that country

  23. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Spain are not free scoring though despite their strengths. Spain are rightly favourites, but the Dutch are still capable of beating anyone on their day. The value at 15/1 was enough to sway me. Come on the Netherlands.

  24. Tommy says:


    If youre going to beat Spain itt will be the first game when they are cold, but I fully expect Spain to win the world cup, theyve got the best team, play the best style for these conditions

  25. Gary Mitrovic says:

    Tommy, yea I agree with you. If I had to pick a winner I’d go for Spain. I think the German’s chances have suffered with players like Gundogan, Bender and especially Reus missing out. I think Reus was capable of lighting up the tournament for Germany, real shame he’s not playing.

  26. Tommy says:


    People keep mentioning the confederations cup, after a long hard season, Spain werent going to be too fussed, wheras Brazil wanted to put on a show, be a different Spain this summer, a win this summer and Spain would have to go down as the best international side of all time, a far cry from 8 years ago when they were the biggest underachievas in football history

  27. OpikBidin says:

    Welbeck needs to play as the no.10 to mark Pirlo and also buldozerize Italy’s defence, Funny if we see Pirlo who can only helplessly look Welbeck running through the defense

  28. Tommy says:


    If youve not got aa Coral account ive got an easy £20 quid for you too make, their offering new customers, 2/1 on Brazil to wear yellow shirts upto a maximum bet of 10 quid, surely they will wear yellow, easiest 20 quid youll; ever make

  29. Neil Moore says:

    Gary. Don’t even get me started on Tyler mate. He’s a cunt. Every United game for about 18 months after that Aguero goal won the Bertie’s the league he kept throwing it in to his commentary. He hates United. Yeah quite like Andy Gray. Stan is a fucking prick and I can’t believe he’s now on MOTD. His opinion is always right. Tosser. Do not like Chiles but don’t mind Dixon , Ha I know what you mean about that expression on his face. Durham is good at what he does, winding folk up!! Another cunt I dislike off Talksport is that toff Saggers. Actually the entire crew , mainly dippers now like horse abuser Quinn, arsehole Murray are all wankers.

  30. Neil Moore says:

    Finally Tommy someone tipping Spain. Been saying it all along. They’ll just pass teams to death and tire them out and this World Cup is suited to them. Brazil will flop I agree and I can see this World Cup being a horrorshow for various reasons.

  31. dannysoya LOVES USAIN BOLT says:

    Great to see Nani making a difference again. All he needs is a steady of run of games because in full flow there’s not many that can stop him. Hopefully he doesn’t get injured at all in the world cup. Just a steady run of games.

  32. WilliamAR says:

    I’m amazed Nani even gets picked for the world cup squad considering the fact that he has only played a handful of games all season. He is never fit to play in a united shirt but he’s always full of beans to play in a portugal one. Surely that’s not right?

  33. Paul davidson says:

    Nani is our best winger..he’s very talented. All he needs is to be backed and he will perform magics. Even SAF’s last season as a united manager, he mentioned that nani was a game changer who could win games for you single_handedly. It surprises me how a headless chicken line valencia kept being picked over nani. An attacking minded coach will know that valencia is too limited and a one trick pony.

  34. WilliamAR says:

    Paul davidson

    Being as skilful as nani is doesn’t make him a good footballer. there’s more to football than tricks and step overs. I’m amazed he’s he’s picked for Portugal as he’s never fit to play for united but suddenly becomes fit when Portugal are playing. his call up to Portugal is a joke as he’s barely played this season and I’m sure there are other Portuguese players who have deserved a call up


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