On June 6th, Nani picked up a shoulder injury in training which wasn’t believed to be serious. “I feel better already,” the player said before setting off for South Africa. His only concern was whether he would be ready to play in the friendly against Mozambique.
However, two days later, it was confirmed that the injury was in fact so bad that he was no longer able to compete in the World Cup. Bear in mind this was a whole week before Portugal’s opening game, two weeks before Portugal’s second game and 17 days before their final group stage match. It was therefore assumed in the press that the injury had to be really serious, otherwise the manager would take a gamble on his returning fitness. Nani had a great second half to the season for United so this World Cup had come just at the right time for him.
Nani was replaced by Benfica’s Ruben Amorim, a 25-year-old central midfielder who started just 10 of his 24 league appearances last season as he struggles to hold down a first team place, who has never represented his country. Considering Portugal were so severely lacking in options, it seemed to point to the fact Nani must have really hurt himself and be out for the long term for him to be removed from the squad.
However, upon returning from South Africa, our winger claimed: “I will be fine in a week.” If that really is the case, Nani would have only missed Portugal’s opening game against the Ivory Coast and would have been available for the remaining two group stage games, as well as any possible further matches in the competition.
Unsurprisingly, tongues started wagging, with the media and fans trying to explain why on earth one of Portugal’s best players had been sent home when apparently not very injured at all. Nani had spoken of his “bitterness” and “rage” at having to leave South Africa, which only added to the speculation. Some rumours claimed he had failed a random drugs test whilst others claimed he had fallen out with Carlos Queiroz, although both whispers have been denied today.
“The rumours going around are without foundation,” said Luis Horta, the head of anti-doping authority in Portugal.
The vice-president of the Portuguese federation was equally as baffled as to where the talk had originated from.
“There is no attempting to hide anything, there was only the hope that he could have recovered,” said Amandio de Carvalho.
Carlos Queiroz has today talked about the fuss surrounding Nani, claiming that quite frankly, Portugal have more important things to worry about.
“Tomorrow, we are going to be playing the Ivory Coast in our first game in the World Cup,” said Queiroz. “If Nani is ready in four days, that’s wonderful, but the most important thing is for us to focus on our goal tomorrow. So, with all due respect to Nani, that is what we are focusing on.”
So, what’s gone on here? My interpretation would be something like this: Nani is massively pissed off at being replaced by a nobody in the World Cup team, particularly given how hard he has worked to get there and how confident he is in his own ability to shine. He will have believed he could recover faster than the doctors were telling him would, so upon returning from his 16 hour journey, thoroughly pissed off, claimed he would be available in a week. This of course lead to sensationalised rumours because people were trying to make sense of a situation that didn’t make much sense at all.
It’s a desperately disappointing situation for him and we of course do wish him a speedy recovery. Although, it is good to note that he’s got his club head on him now.
“I want to recover well and start the season with my club, have a good pre-season and be in good form for the start of the season in England,” Nani said today. Good lad.