Player Profile: Nani PDF Print E-mail

Full name: Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha

Position: Forward

Date of Birth: 17 November 1986

Birthplace: Praia, Cape Verde


Another outstanding prospect to step off Sporting’s conveyor belt of world-class talent, Nani has made a considerable impact at club and international level since bursting onto the scene as an 18-year-old. Now at Manchester United, the winger already has three Premier League titles and a Champions League winner’s medal to his name from his time at Old Trafford. With Euro 2012 on the horizon, however, many believe the exciting winger still has much to prove if he is to be spoken of in the same breath as Rui Costa, Figo and his current team-mate, Ronaldo.

Early career

Nani was brought up in the poor Lisbon suburb of Amadora and sought refuge from a turbulent childhood on the football pitch. His big break came when he was spotted as a teenager by Sporting scouts and was snapped up to join their famed youth academy. Aged 18, he broke into Sporting’s first team in 2005/06 and made an immediate impression: scoring six goals in his debut season and earning plaudits for the footwork and speed that have always marked him as a rare talent.

He enjoyed a blistering start to the 2006/07 season: scoring in his first two matches for Sporting and on his international debut against Denmark. He also graced the Champions League for the first time, scoring an outstanding effort against Spartak Moscow.

Europe’s biggest clubs began to circle, and Sportinguistas were left rueing the inevitable when  Manchester United paid 25.5 million euros in May 2007 to take the precocious talent to Old Trafford.

Smooth Premiership transition

Nani’s debut season at the Theatre of Dreams was a success. He arrived amidst fierce competition for a first team place, having been earmarked by Red Devils boss Alex Ferguson as an understudy to established stars Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the winger made a persuasive case to start ahead of such high-profile names: scoring spectacular goals against Tottenham and Middlesbrough, in addition to important strikes against Arsenal and Liverpool in his first season.

Allied to his goal haul, Nani impressed with his ability to create for others, also racking up a high number of assists in 37 appearances, as he won a Premiership and Champions League double in his debut season. On as a sub in the Champions League final, Nani kept his nerve to convert an all-important penalty in the Reds’ shootout win against Chelsea in Moscow.

Stepping up to the plate

With his compatriot Ronaldo flying the nest to join Real Madrid, Nani began the 2009/10 season with a weight of expectation on his shoulders. It was ironic therefore that he dislocated his shoulder in the Reds first game without Ronaldo, Nani stretchered from the pitch soon after scoring - as United started the season with a loss to Chelsea in the Community Shield.

After a quick recovery, Nani suffered a dip in form that led to the player publicly criticising his manager, Ferguson, for a perceived lack of faith in his talents. Player and manager rode out this blip, however, and the winger finished the season strongly to earn praise from Ferguson for a greater maturity. However, his seven goals in 34 appearances weren’t enough to stop United surrendering their Premier League title to Chelsea.

His peak?

NaniThe 2010/11 season marked Nani’s most consistent and impressive season to date. He made the highest number of appearances in his professional career (49) and, in addition to making the Premier League Team of the Year, was voted as Players’ Player of the Year by his peers at Old Trafford. Nani’s ability to conjure chances single-handedly was evident throughout the season; the winger seemingly putting his reputation for bad decision-making and inconsistency behind him.

He made the headlines with the title chase in full swing when he was on the receiving end of a lunging tackle from Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher that saw Nani leave the pitch in tears. United feared they may have lost their star performer, but the Portuguese surprised everyone by returning to help power United to their 19th league title.

Stuttering towards the Euros

The scene seemed set: Nani had emerged from Ronaldo’s shadow as a high-calibre player in his own right and entered the 2011/12 season looking to establish himself as one of the world’s best. Unfortunately, injury and a Manchester United side in transition put paid to these high hopes.

It all began so promisingly, Nani scoring twice as United beat rivals Manchester City in the Community Shield. He scored United’s fifth as they demolished Arsenal 8-2 at Old Trafford in August before drilling home a wonderful long-range strike, in his 100th Premier League appearance, as United beat Chelsea 3-1 in September. Despite United receiving a morale-draining 1-6 derby defeat to City, Nani’s season still remained on course - the winger shortlisted for the prestigious Ballon D’Or.

He scored further goals against Stoke and Wolves, but his season was soon to be derailed. It all came unstuck in January when he was sidelined for two months after picking up an ankle injury in a 2-2 draw at Arsenal. He returned to action towards the end of the season, but - despite flashes of form - was unable to prevent United finishing their campaign trophy-less. One positive for the Portuguese may be that he carries form and fitness into this summer’s European Championships.

International career

NaniOnly a bit-part player at Euro 2008, absent at South Africa World Cup in 2010 - it seems fair to say that Nani’s international career has yet to hit the heights. However, his excellent technique and speed are well-suited to football at this level and he has impressed in recent years in a Portugal shirt. His contribution to Euro 2012 qualification was curtailed by injury (though he still notched four goals), but he has 12 goals in 52 appearances for his country and is a key member of the squad that will travel to Poland and the Ukraine.

Trademark celebration

The winger celebrates each goal he scores with a ’mortal’ or ’Leap of Death’. He learnt to execute such acrobatics while practising Capoeira as a child. Reports in 2007 indicated that Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson had banned his winger from celebrating in this manner due to safety concerns. However, Nani dismissed the reports and continues to celebrate goals in gravity-defying fashion.

by Tom Kundert, Sean Gillen & Stephen Gillett (last updated 25/05/2012)

Club Appearances* Goals
Sporting 58 9
Manchester United** 124 25
 PORTUGAL** 52 12

* League appearances only

** Up to 1 May 2012

Comments (10)
we love you
10 Sunday, 04 May 2014 08:09
Nani u are the best winger in Manchester united and top 5 in premier league as u are the best midfielder in the world and d.moyes hasn't been playing you which is sad if u practice more and more u might become the best player -ONE LOVE ONE NANI (N17)
9 Saturday, 07 September 2013 20:28
8 Tuesday, 19 February 2013 13:19
ur the best player u show it in FA cup against leading.......
Improve your talent
7 Saturday, 24 November 2012 18:47
U ar better than the best we love nani please inprove in your football acedemy please stay in old trafford
Hello Nani
6 Saturday, 14 April 2012 17:30
"The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce goals.I like you nani.I really like to meet can contact me on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
nani rox
5 Saturday, 03 July 2010 06:51
bcoz of u nt playin in d world cup 2010 we were nt able 2 do it

4 Tuesday, 08 June 2010 12:10
Hi Nani are you my name is Yosef Gashaw i appricate you you are best for all of the world plyer
3 Tuesday, 01 June 2010 16:46
For Portugal to make noise at the 2010 WC, NANI needs to be that X-FACTOR! I believe he will live up to the pressure.

FORCA PORTUGAL...Good luck boys!
2 Wednesday, 26 May 2010 15:47
over the last season at utd the one player who has stood out is NANI,, he is very quick,,skillful and an excellent player who could one day be as big as cristaino ronaldo.

the best
1 Tuesday, 25 May 2010 13:28
nani has been a fantastic player since joining united and if he continues like this one day he will be one of the best player in the world

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