Should Manchester United be cashing in on Nani?

by Sam Peoples

Manchester United supporters have been nonplussed to continue reading rumours about the possible departure of Nani. The rumour mill never seems to rest and with Manchester United keeping details close to the chest there’s really no knowing the truth of it all – common sense is your best weapon.

In the case of Nani, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is chasing a raise. That’s pretty common for a young star in his mid 20s, you can almost count on it. While Manchester United rarely rush to offer improved terms, my best guess would be that we’ll see Nani sign a new contract some time this season and all this blustering will be for nothing.

At Manchester United, contract negotiations are not discussed with the media, neither are transfer fees or contract details. On one hand this can be frustrating for the media, who would like to report these details. However, this also means that reporters can make up any story they want and they’re very unlikely to get an official denial, especially if said reporter has already been banned from Sir Alex’s press conferences.

It can be very hard to tell the difference between real insider information leaked to the media and complete tripe. In this case  we’ve had confirmation, of a sort, from Zenit St. Petersburg’s director-general Maxim Mitrofanov, who was quoted as saying:

“It’s true we are negotiating for Nani and Moutinho, but Hulk and Witsel were our top priorities.”

But really this means very little, and may stand for no more than a phone call from Zenit St. Petersburg to Manchester United or to Nani’s agent. It’s easy for some tabloid reporter to imagine Nani is holding the team to a ransom and demanding ridiculous wages. Fortunately, the truth is rarely as tumultuous as the back pages would have you believe.

Of course, these sort of decisions often come down to salary demands. The rumours suggest that Nani is after a pay raise that would put him among Manchester United’s highest earners. Many would say he fully deserves to be among the better paid players at the club, he’s certainly one of our best attackers.

But at the same time United are very conscious of keeping player salaries as level as possible. There were murmurings recently that Danny Welbeck wouldn’t get the improved contract he was after but those concerns turned out to be unfounded. I expect a similar result over Nani’s contract as it makes little sense to let him leave.

To bring in a player of the same quality would likely cost more than we could get for Nani, with the insanely inflated state of the transfer market.

Of course, some argue that Nani doesn’t deserve a raise but his numbers speak loudly. One of the most dangerous players in the world when attacking a defender with the ball at his feet, Nani has been one of our most reliable source of assists since his arrival. 2010-11 saw Nani win the Players’ Player of the Year Award and lead the team with 14 assists, while establishing personal bests with ten goals and 42 starts in all competitions.

While getting 11 fewer starts last season, he still managed 12 assists to go with eight goals, giving him a slightly improved rate for both from the year before. His improvement has been more evident with Portugal, where he collected three goals and two assists in six European Cup qualifiers, as well as two assists in four games in Euro 2012.

Especially in the hardest games, Nani is extremely valuable for his ability to create a goal or assist seemingly from nothing. He has the skill to unlock any defence in the world, the speed to evade the most organized back line and the dribbling talent to dance through them like they aren’t there.

While fans bemoan Nani’s conversion rate from shots, it angers me more to see the team passing around the edge of the box and not shooting at all. It is better to try and fail than to have never tried at all.

I hope both parties find a compromise and Nani can play for Manchester United for many years to come.

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