Manchester United’s Nani is yet another flying winger off the Sporting production line. After making his debut in 2005/06, the Africa-born wide-man has followed in the glittering footsteps of such masters of the art of wing-play as Luis Figo, Simao Sabrosa, Ricardo Quaresma and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Born on Cape Verde, Nani moved to Portugal at an early age. Football offered the youngster a sense of purpose, although it was in another, perhaps more esoteric, sporting discipline that he also shone. A talented practitioner of the Brazilian art of capoeira, years of training gave the budding superstar his fine sense of balance and athleticism which has delighted football fans all over Europe, not least when the winger celebrates yet another goal with one of his characteristic backflips.
He started his career with Real Massama, before moving to the Jose Alvalade and working his way through the ranks. He broke into the first team in 2005/06, becoming a regular for two seasons before his talent and work-rate brought attention from abroad. In 2007, as in 2003, Sporting lost a young star to English giants Manchester United, as Nani followed fellow Alvalade alumnus Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford.
The young winger spent the first few months staying with his fellow Portuguese, as he attempted to make his mark in the northwest of England. Success was not slow in coming, as the Red Devils won yet another domestic title, and went on to conquer Europe in the UEFA Champions League.
He has been a regular in the Portugal set-up since 2006 under both Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlos Queiroz, in spite of fierce competition for places from the likes of Simao and Ronaldo. In his country’s qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup™ the winger played in 11 games out of 12. He played a crucial role in helping his team to South Africa, laying on the winning goal for Bruno Alves in the first leg of the play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina.