Nani is the latest Manchester United player to contemplate his future at Old Trafford, with the Portugal winger considering the possibility of severing his ties with the club in the summer.
The 24-year-old is intrigued by the prospect of moving to Italy and has spoken at length with his family and his agent, Jorge Mendes, about whether a move to Serie A would be possible and if it is the right point of his career to try to make it happen.
His thinking is not based on any serious discontent with his current employers, with Nani relatively settled in Manchester and enjoying his new status as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s more important players, but he is coming to the end of his fourth season in England and has started to believe it might be time for a different challenge, if not this summer then almost certainly next.
Nani’s belief is that he has done as well as anyone could have been expected to filling the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and that a Premier League or European Cup winners’ medal at the end of this season would leave him with little more to achieve at United.
Ferguson has talked him out of wanting to leave once before, in the 2010 January transfer window, but the player of then and now are vastly different in terms of their worth to the side. Nani’s development into a wide player of penetration and confidence has led to him scoring 10 times and accumulating 15 assists this season, in contrast to his earlier days when there were only sporadic flashes of the talent that persuaded United to pay about £18m to sign him from Sporting Lisbon.
The winger, who has been declared fit for the Champions League tie against Marseille after recovering ahead of schedule from a gashed left leg, is currently playing the best football of his life, to the point where there is a firmly held belief at Old Trafford that he should be a realistic contender for the player of the season shortlist.
The Guardian broke the story of United signing the then 20-year-old Nani in 2007 and has spoken to the same sources in Portugal to establish that 12 months since signing a new four-year contract at United, he is deliberating over several scenarios depending on what happens before the end of the season. Importantly, he is willing to wait to see what pans out, in contrast to the way Ronaldo made it a personal mission to leave for Real Madrid.
In that regard similarities can be made with the cases of Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, who were both tempted by moves to Spain before concluding that they would be better off staying in Manchester and signing new contracts. Wayne Rooney’s dispute with the club in October was a more complex issue, but the fact all three decided to remain at Old Trafford is a reflection of the club’s standing in the game and Ferguson’s powers of persuasion when it comes to convincing players that the only direction after United is down.
Nani has won the European Cup, the Club World Club, two Premier League titles and two Carling Cups at United, and is someone Ferguson would desperately want to keep.
Even with Antonio Valencia returning from a broken leg, United are so short of options in wide positions that they are giving serious consideration to bidding for Aston Villa’s Ashley Young in the summer. Ryan Giggs, at 37, has to be used sparingly while Gabriel Obertan and Bébé have struggled to impress and Park Ji-sung is not a natural winger.