As speculation persists that Nani may be leaving Old Trafford, perhaps it really is time for him to move on.
Every few weeks, for what seems like the last few years, Manchester United winger Nani has been linked with a move away from the club.
These links come whenever his form dips, or whenever United sign (or are linked with) competition for his place. Most recently, that challenge has come from a man who isn’t even there yet and another who may never arrive.
For many, the impending arrival of Wilfried Zaha points to a future without the Portuguese international. For others, that fate will be sealed with the signing of reported target James Rodriguez from Porto.
But the truth is Nani has never lived up to expectations. His poor performance in the FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea was not the straw that broke the camel’s back. That back was broken long ago.
There was a glimpse back in 2010, a prolonged glimpse that lasted several games, but a glimpse regardless. Because Nani has been at Old Trafford for six years and the words most commonly used to describe him are still “frustrating” and “erratic”.
Three years ago, in the aftermath of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, it seemed the penny had finally dropped. Outstanding performances against Arsenal and Manchester City among others showed a winger finally in tune with his talent.
Where before he had been a show-pony, now he was incisive; where once he tricked the opponent and then himself, now he channelled his talents. He ran, he crossed, he scored. It sounds so simple, but it is only simple when a player makes it so.
Nani’s devastating abilities were finally on show for whole games and not just moments within them.
And yet that blistering form is long gone. Where other players have bad patches, Nani has good patches.
So with every new headline proclaiming his departure, and every new suggestion that the contract he is apparently holding out for will never surface, it tells us nothing we don’t already know.
Recent comments on MUTV suggest Nani still sees his future at Old Trafford. He talked about moving on from a poor season and doing his best for the club next year. But that decision may now be taken out of his hands.
Nani could have been a world-beater. At 26 he may still be. But he has been given plenty of time to prove that at Old Trafford. The fact that he has had so much of it speaks of a player Sir Alex Ferguson knows is worth a second chance.
But perhaps even Ferguson is beginning to realise the reality of the situation; which is a shame, because Nani could have been whatever he wanted to be.
For the briefest of times he was. If he still doesn’t get that, maybe that explains why he is yet to fulfil his undoubted potential.
Do you think Nani can still be a consistent performer for Manchester United? Or has he exhausted his chances?
image: © gordonflood.com