United target winger Nani from source that produced Ronaldo
Saturday March 3, 2007
Manchester United have identified Nani, the Portuguese winger, for one of three major end-of-season transfers. Owen Hargreaves is a long-standing target and Sir Alex Ferguson’s other priority will be to bring in a striker to fill the void left by Henrik Larsson’s return to Helsingborg in nine days’ time.
In total, United could spend in excess of £60m in the summer, a figure that may be dramatically offset if Real Madrid or Barcelona manage to prise Cristiano Ronaldo away from Old Trafford, with a fee of around £45m under discussion. Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted that Ronaldo is not for sale but it remains to be seen whether the Glazer family could turn down an offer in that region and United’s interest in Nani will inevitably raise questions about whether he has been targeted as a possible replacement.
Nani, like Ronaldo, has come to Ferguson’s attention because of a succession of illuminating displays for Sporting Lisbon, the club that has also produced Luis Figo, Simao Sabrosa and Ricardo Quaresma.Carlos Queiroz, Ferguson’s Portuguese assistant, has followed Nani’s career since his early days in Sporting’s youth academy, becoming a regular visitor at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, and United have now registered a firm interest in bringing the 20-year-old to Old Trafford in the summer. It is understood informal talks have been going on since the turn of the year.
United are likely to face competition from several other clubs - Lyon are also confirmed admirers - but United have a feeder agreement with Sporting dating back to Ronaldo’s £12m transfer in 2003 and they hope to capitalise on the Portuguese club’s financial problems by not having to pay an exorbitant fee. :evil:
The matter is complicated because Nani is currently going through a legal dispute to sever his ties with his agent, Ana Almeida, and sign for Jorge Mendes. Worryingly for United Mendes also acts as Jose Mourinho’s agent and there is bound to be concern within Old Trafford that the player will also be offered to Chelsea, who have a habit of gazumping United’s deals, most notably Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich and Arjen Robben from PSV Eindhoven. Mendes is generally viewed with suspicion at United because another of his clients, Ronaldo, is constantly linked to Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Sporting have a reputation as a selling club and the indications from Lisbon last night were that they would not stand in Nani’s way, providing a satisfactory fee could be agreed. The club are trying to rush through a new contract with him, one that will include a buy-out clause set at £20m.At present, Nani is one of the lowest-paid players at Sporting and his contract, which runs until 2010, stipulates he can leave for £13.4m. Nani has made it clear he wants to play for a major club and it would significantly help United in the negotiating process if he chose not to accept Sporting’s improved terms.
Ferguson is already convinced that Hargreaves will join in the summer, almost a year after United first confirmed their interest in the Bayern Munich midfielder. After that, a new striker must be found, with renewed speculation in the Spanish media this week about Fernando Torres of Atletico Madrid. United are also monitoring the potential availability of Samuel Eto’o from Barcelona, the Cameroonian striker having complained about feeling unwanted at Camp Nou.