In the summer of 2007, Manchester United signed Portuguese winger Nani. He impressed early and was quickly labeled the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo, a tag that may have ruined Nani's career.
Nani's career at Old Trafford could be summed up with one word: frustrating. Nani has the ability to be a world-class winger for the Red Devils, but at times he acts like a baby and plays selfishly, which does not benefit the team.
When Nani first came to Old Trafford, he dazzled fans with his fancy feet and ability to play on the wing. He looked like a younger, unpolished Cristiano Ronaldo. Fans loved the potential Nani had. He fit perfectly into United's free-flowing unselfish style of play.
Then came the big moment when everything changed. United had a three-on-one towards the opponent's goal. Wayne Rooney had the ball, and Carlos Tevez and Nani were joining him on the attack. Nani was open in the middle and called for the ball, but Rooney was open too, took the shot and missed.
Nani immediately gave an angry glare towards Rooney, questioning why he didn't pass when he was open in the middle. Later in that game, Nani had the ball with Rooney supporting him on a two-on-one. Rooney was open and Nani wasn't, but Nani still shot and missed.
From that moment, it was clear that was the way it was going to be. Nani is out there to get his. For the rest of the season, when Nani had the ball on a rush, he never passed and always took the shot.
That is the way Nani is: he is in it for himself, not for the team. It doesn't matter what he says off the pitch because the way he plays on the pitch says it all.
When Dimitar Berbatov scores a spectacular goal that was the result of someone else's cross, even if the finish itself required tremendous skill on his part, he will immediately run to give credit to the man who set it up.
Ever notice what Nani does when he scores?
When Nani scores a goal, he will immediately be flocked by teammates to congratulate him. But Nani pushes them away, runs into space and does his usual flip in the air. When he lands, he takes his two thumbs and points to his name on the back of his shirt. At that point, the rest of the team can hug him.
He is saying that yes, you can congratulate me but first I need to let the world know who scored that goal.
Earlier this season, Nani said that he should now be considered one of the top players in the world, and be in the conversation with Ronaldo and Messi. Since when is it up to Nani to decide that? That is for the world to decide, and Nani has far from proven that he should be there.
Nani continues to act like a baby on the pitch. He dives and acts like he has been stabbed on plays where there is barely any contact. He looks to retaliate after players make tackles against him.
But Nani's worst trait is his selfishness and thinking that he is the best man on the pitch.
Nani has been enjoying the best season of his career, and he leads United in assists by far. But when Nani is on the pitch, he must be at the center of everything—whether it benefits the team or not.
Nani has to take every corner, even though most of his corners are terrible and are cleared out right away. If Nani is on the field, he must take every free kick, even though he rarely scores on them. He usually shoots into the wall, and Giggs has proven to be far better then him. If Giggs does get to take one, it is usually just to pass it off to Nani, who then shoots.
In last Saturday's match against Birmingham, United got out to a 4-0 lead behind another Dimitar Berbatov hat trick. With United up 4-0, the look on Nani's face seemed to say, "How can we have four goals without me scoring any of them?" From that point on, whenever Nani had the ball anywhere close to the box, he shot it every time. He usually missed badly, but finally, he found the back of the net.
When Nani scored that goal, there was no celebration. Rather, there was just a look a relief as he pointed to the back his shirt, trying to make sure the whole world knew who scored. How necessary was that?
When United are down or tied late in the game, it gets worse. Nani will morph into, "I must win this game" mode. He will stop playing within the system and try to take over the match himself. It becomes very easy to stop Nani in this situation because you know he won't pass and will simply try to win the game by himself. He's not good enough to do that yet, although he believes to be.
Against Aston Villa when United tied the game at two off a great cross by Nani, they were in a similar situation just minutes later. Instead of putting a cross in towards several open players in the box, Nani took a shot from outside the left corner of the box—a shot that goes in about once a season. Instead of going for the cross, Nani tried to be the hero with a low percentage shot, which sailed way over the crossbar.
That is one of the problems with Nani. When things are going well and he is playing within the Manchester United system, he is fast becoming one of the world's best wingers. But there are too many times where his childish side is exposed and he becomes selfish on the pitch. He is hurting United more then he is helping them in those moments also showing that he still has a long way to go.