Why Luis Nani Will Have An Even Bigger Year For Orlando City When MLS Returns
Updated: Jun 4
There were more than a few eyebrows raised last season when Orlando City announced the signing of former Manchester United winger Luis Nani from Sporting CP. The Portuguese joined late in the window, and consequently was thrown straight into the deep end in MLS. Joining the Lions late, and with no pre-season under his belt he was always up against it. Nani had been in competitive action for Sporting since the previous August, and had been sidelined with an injury over
the New Year. Not the ideal preparation for your first season in a new country, league and team. Despite all of this, he still had a fine debut season in purple. Nani started 26 games, and featured in 30 overall clocking up 2,277 minutes for an average 75.9 minutes a game. Not bad for a player who many pundits had written off, *ahem* Matt Doyle.
When going over the statistics of Nani's career, even from when he came through the ranks as a young prospect in his native Portugal, it's clear to see that Luis Nani produces his best form when he is in a settled and familiar environment. Which seems like an obvious thing to say, the same can certainly be said of most professional players. If you're settled and happy, you're more likely to produce your best form on the field. Nani is certainly more settled in Orlando, in fact it's probably the most settled he has been since he left Manchester United in 2015. This is one of the principle reasons behind why I think we will see the very best of Luis Nani in 2020 and even into 2021. Feeling settled at a club, in a city, is something that is crucial to Luis Nani being able to produce his devastating best form. This is something his career statistics seem to reinforce.
As such let's delve a little into the career statistics of the Euro 2016 winning forward. In an impressive professional debut season for Sporting CP he amassed 5 goals across 36 games, and a similar 6 goals from 40 games in his second season. Seemingly this was enough to attract the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United as he joined the Red Devils for a (then whopping) $37.9m in 2007. Whilst in Manchester it's clear to see how his goal output improved year on year. Obviously, playing in the best team in the Premier League, for one of the greatest ever coaches will have no doubt helped him. That being said, it would have been easy for him to wilt in the Theatre of Dreams. Many have done. But not Luis Nani. He felt at home in Manchester and the Premier League, and as such he grew into one of the league's most feared attackers.
Nani hit 4 goals for Manchester United in 2007/08 and 8 in 2008/09 and then 7 in 2009/10. It was in 2010 when he really got going however. Nani plundered10 goals in 2010/11, before 13 in 2011/12. Nani's stats improved the longer he was at Old Trafford. This could be owed to the form of the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo tearing teams apart alongside him. To put his success down to the likes of Rooney and Ronaldo, would be a huge disservice to Nani. He was settled, and playing the best football of his career to date. After leaving United he had one season stays with Sporting CP and Fenerbahce before joining Valencia. Game time was limited in Valencia, and he was loaned to Lazio for a season. The forward then returned to Sporting CP for a third stint. He never reached double figures for a season in this time. His best 2 spells came at Sporting CP, during his second and third spells with the Portuguese giants. Familiarity and feeling settled is clearly important for Nani, to see his very best form. Nani is now settled in Orlando, with his family. A settled Nani is only good news for Orlando City, and only bad news for the rest of the league.
Speaking of the rest of the league, there are now a number of significant voids in MLS. The giant Zlatan and Rooney shaped holes in the league need to filled. LA Galaxy's signing of Nani's former United teammate Javier Hernandez is significant, no doubt. He's no Nani though. Chicharito is the darling of the Mexican national team. However, he does not have the same presence that Nani has. Nani, exuberates leadership and ambition. He will want to establish himself as the forerunner in this league. Whilst Chicharito mourns the end of his European dream, Orlando City's captain is as excited as ever about his MLS future. He told Tom Everest of Gaffer online in 2020, that he cannot just 'relax and play football'. It's simply not in his nature. He will want to be better than last year, so MLS defences should be concerned.
Nani will have been hurt by the way last season ended. Orlando City's play off 'charge' fell flat on its face. Can I even really use the word charge? Probably not. Either way, Luis Nani won't have been happy. He's a born winner. He will want to put things right and finally deliver MLS success to the City Beautiful. Be that in a mini tournament ay Walt Disney World, or regular season games Exploria Stadium you get the feeling 2020 is going to be Nani's year. When it eventually starts that is.