Frustrating is probably the word that would sum up Nani’s season. After a terrific start to the season, injuries began to creep in and after losing his place to Antonio Valencia, the Portuguese winger’s influence faded away.
In the last fortnight there have been rumours about Nani wanting a move away from Old Trafford after five years at United. The alleged reasons are to do with increasing his pay-packet and with 18 months left on his contract, it’s best for both parties that his future gets sorted out ASAP.
A good showing at the Euros would do Nani’s chances of getting an increased contract at United no harm as well as showing potential suitors (rumored to be Inter Milan) why they should spend the cash and sign him. After missing out on playing at the World Cup in South Africa thanks to a collar-bone injury, you get the sense the former Sporting Lisbon winger wants to make up for lost time.
Portugal who memorably were given a tough draw in South Africa where they faced Brazil and the Ivory Coast in the Groups before losing to eventual-winners Spain in the second-round have been paired in the so-called ‘group of death’ at this summer’s tournament alongside Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark.
The Danes qualified automatically for the tournament piping Portugal in qualifying who only finished ahead of third-placed Norway on goal-difference. Germany and the Netherlands reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in South Africa and historically go well at in this tournament, so Group B really is wide-open.
Even with Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks, Portugal’s most important game arguably is their first one in their Group against Germany in Kharkiv. Avoid defeat and it sets them up nicely for their final two games. Joachim Low’s side arguably are a stronger and you suspect Portugal will have to rely on their wing-talent if they are to stand a chance of winning.
After suffering disappointing friendly results to Macedonia (a 0-0 draw) and Turkey (a 3-1 defeat) Portugal’s manager Paulo Bento certainly needs his big players to perform. Nani just like Ronaldo is always a man for the big occasion and will need to be at the very top of his game if he is to outsmart Philip Lahm in Kharkiv on Saturday.
Lahm has come of the back of another outstanding season for Bayern Munich and is probably one of the best tactical full-backs in the game. It doesn’t get any easier there for Portugal. Denmark come next with a monster of a game against the Dutch last, there’s a strong chance Bento’s side may not reach the quarter-finals.
Nani should though still have a good tournament. He is no longer erratic with the ball and makes the most of every crossing opportunity. With his ability to cut inside his marker, the fact he often switches wings when a full-back is able to knuckle him down, he can be a dangerous customer and that’s without mentioning his blistering shots on goal from long range.
Whilst Portugal shouldn’t win Euro 2012, Nani at the very least has the opportunity to have a good tournament and show United why he remains one of their most valuable players, even if he isn’t guaranteed a starting-place anymore. If Bento’s side do get out of their group they should at the very least reach the semi-final stage.
By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87