Nani: Player Profile

Portugal’s Performer 

Personal information

Full name:  Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha
Date of birth: 17 November 1986
Age: 26
Place of birth: Praia, Cape Verde
Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position: Winger

Club information 
Current club: Manchester United
Number: 17

Youth career 
2000–2003 Real Massama
2003–2005 Sporting CP

Senior career
2005–2007 Sporting CP 76 Appearances, 11 goals
2007– Manchester United 220 Appearances, 40 goals

National team
2006–2007 Portugal U21 10 Appearances, 1 goal
2006– Portugal 70 Appearances, 14 goals

The Manchester United winger might not be at his best for his club but when he is on national duty he is one of Portugal’s star performers.

He will be looking to continue his excellent form with Portugal as they look to take an advantage in their first leg play-off match at home to Sweden.

Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha - or Nani, as we all know him - is a powerful, pacey winger capable of dominating matches with his unique brand of wing wizardry.

Since signing from Sporting Lisbon in 2007, the Portuguese has become a great player, moving out of Cristiano Ronaldo's looming shadow to become a star in his own right.

His debut season is hard to beat, having won the title and European Cup, though the 2010/11 campaign is widely considered his 'coming of age' term.

After helping the Reds seal a record-breaking 19th title, he then took home the Player of the Year prize at United's annual awards night, an accolade that was more than deserved.

Sir Alex Ferguson highlighted an increased maturity in the wide man and his blossoming personality. And it seemed fair to suggest that the inconsistency that had, at times, frustrated fans earlier in his career was now a by-product of youth.

But the winger would not stop there, though. His close control, tight turning circle and acute spatial awareness were sharper than ever during his fifth season and few defenders could get anywhere near him - on either flank.

Seemingly, the arrival of summer signing Ashley Young brought out his best and his deadly attacking form would help the Portugal starlet land a nomination for the 2011 Ballon d'Or award.

Frustratingly, a reckless challenge from Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny during January’s win at the Emirates Stadium prompted five weeks on the touchline, only returning for the campaign's ultimately disappointing climax before representing Portugal at Euro 2012.

Injury continued to wreak havoc the next season. After an encouraging start, in November, Nani suffered a hamstring strain against Braga in the UEFA Champions League that would continue to pester the rest of his campaign.

And for the first time since the 2008/09 term, he played in less than half of United's fixtures. As fans will undoubtedly remember, his controversial dismissal during the second leg defeat to Real Madrid at Old Trafford also cast an irritable shadow over his season, despite an encouraging return to form during spring.

“If you play a lot of games you can play yourself into form and that's ideal,” Nani explained in March, 2012. When you're in and out with injuries, it’s more difficult.”

Echoing the thoughts of many, before announcing his retirement, Sir Alex explaiend the Portuguese winger's importance at the Theatre of Dreams: "We need a Nani. He offers something different from the other players. He's an incredible talent."

Of course, the task now is to regain full fitness and form under new manager David Moyes, who quickly tied Nani down to a new five-year deal in September and will hope to tap into his vast pool of talent throughout the 2013/14 season.

Nani has been instrumental to his national team. He was the youngest member of the Portugal squad at the 2006 UEFA Under-21 Championship, making his debut on 23 May 2006 in a 1-0 defeat to France.

He appeared in all three games, before Portugal bowed out in the group stages. During the 2007 European Under-21 Championship, he made four appearances, scoring one goal in a 4–0 victory against Israel in a group stage match, and had to be taken off during the match after a right ankle injury.

Nani made his first appearance for the senior Portuguese team on 1 September 2006, and marked his debut with a goal in Portugal's 4–2 friendly defeat to Denmark.

He was omitted from Portugal's 1–1 draw with Armenia, but was recalled for Euro 2008 qualifiers against Poland and Serbia in September.

Nani was a regular member of the Portuguese squad in Euro 2008 qualification, and scored one of the goals in the 2–1 away win over Belgium on 02 June 2007.

Nani received a call-up to Luiz Felipe Scolari's 23-man squad for Euro 2008 alongside at the time Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.

During the campaign Nani played three games and started just one, but did provide the assist for Helder Postiga's goal during a substitute appearance in the 3–2 quarter-final defeat to Germany on 19 June.

Nani scored the final goal of a 4–0 victory over Malta as Portugal started qualification for the 2010 World Cup on 6 September. He opened the scoring in the 3–2 home loss against Denmark four days later.

Nani helped Portugal book a play-off place for the World Cup as he netted in the 4–0 home win over Malta on 14 October 2009.

He was influential in the play-off against Bosnia and Herzegovina, setting up Bruno Alves for the only goal in the first leg. Raul Meireles' goal in the second-leg sealed Portugal's place at the World Cup in South Africa.

On 1 June 2010, Nani netted Portugal's third in a 3–1 victory over Cameroon. Following that game Nani was named in Carlos Queiroz’s 23-man squad for the tournament, However on 8 June, Nani was ruled out of the tournament through a shoulder injury and was replaced by Benfica midfielder Ruben Amorim.

He scored twice and assisted once in Paulo Bento's first game in charge of Portugal in a 3–1 Euro 2012 qualifying win over Denmark on 8 October 2010.

Nani scored twice and set up another again in a 5–3 win over Iceland on 7 October 2011. He started in the opening match for Portugal against Germany.

After the match he stated how the team played well despite the loss and how "the referee has discriminated against us, but that's normal, Portugal against big teams never get help."

The Portuguese international has been brilliant for his country in the 2014 qualifiers and his nation will be counting on him and players like Cristiano Ronaldo to get them to the World Cup.