Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha, commonly known as Nani, is a Portuguese football player who currently features for Spanish La Liga side Valencia. He predominantly plays as a winger but is also used as a forward.
Having started his career as a boy with Real Massama in Portugal, Nani soon caught the eye of Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, who promptly signed him up to their youth team. He was promoted to the first team upon impressing in the National Junior Championship of 2004-05.
Nani made his senior debut for Sporting in a UEFA Champions League fixture against Udinese at home. Sporting would go on to lose the contest by a solitary goal. He made his premiership debut on August 28, 2005 in a 2-1 away win over Maritimo. His first goal at senior level arrived on October 30 when he opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw at Boavista. His first campaign at senior level with Sporting yielded five goals in 36 appearances across all competitions.
In his second season at Lisbon, Nani scored a total of six goals in 40 league appearances. It was also the season in which he helped his side win the Portuguese Cup. His overall performances earned him a 25.5 million euro move to English Premier League giants Manchester United in June 2007.
Although he was capable of producing some spectacular moments on the football pitch, his time at Manchester United was largely underwhelming as he never realized his true potential. Having joined the club as a promising winger, it was expected that the winger would go on to be just as good as his compatriot, Cristiano Ronaldo. However, it was not to be.
The player put in an inspired performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup Fourth Round on February 16, 2008 when he scored a goal and two assists in a 4-0 win. The match also saw the winger get in an altercation with then Arsenal captain William Gallas, who claimed that the Portuguese was showboating on the pitch. Arsene Wenger also made his displeasure felt in the post-match press-conference as well.
Again on March 23, Nani came on as a substitute in a 3-0 win over arch-rivals Liverpool. He set up the crucial second goal in the 79th minute before sealing the contest two minutes later with a well taken goal in the 81st minute.
His first taste of regular football at United came in the 2009-10 season following the sale of Ronaldo to Real Madrid. The season saw him bag seven goals from 34 appearances including two goals in a scintillating Champions League game against Bayern Munich. The Bavarian giants had won the tie on away goals after it ended 4-4. It was also the season in which he signed a new four-year-deal for the club.
The 30-year-old raised his game to a whole new level the following season when he was awarded the Player’s Player of the Year at Manchester United’s awards night on May 18. He also made the Professional Footballers Association Premier League Team of the Year for the first time that season.
His final season at Manchester United under David Moyes saw him sign a new five-year-deal at the club in September 2013. However, indifferent form and injuries kept him on the sidelines in what was the worst season for the club in the Premier League era.
Nani returned to Sporting on a loan as a part of the deal that took Marcos Rojo to Manchester. In his first appearance following his return, the winger missed a penalty and got a yellow card before being subbed off in the 77th minute. He scored seven goals in 27 appearances during his stay at Sporting.
Turkish club Fenerbahce signed him on a permanent transfer in the 2015-16 transfer season. He scored eight goals in 28 appearances for the team during his one-season stay in Turkey after which he moved to Valencia, who paid his 7.2 million pound release clause following his heroics for Portugal at Euro 2016.
Nani has been capped 105 times for Portugal during which he has scored a total of 23 goals. His only international honour came at the Euro 2016 in France where Portugal won the tournament by defeating the hosts 1-0 in the final. Nani did his part by scoring in a 3-3 draw against Hungary that helped his side make the first knock-out round.
He also scored the solitary goal against Croatia in the last 16 before setting up Renato Sanches’ strike against Poland in the quarterfinal that also saw him convert his penalty in a 5-3 shoot-out win. Nani also scored the second goal in the 2-0 win over Wales in the semi-final. He also wore the arm-band for Portugal in the final following Ronaldo’s injury after a challenge from Dimitri Payet.