By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Manchester City legend Georgi Kinkladze is a central figure in Zenit St Petersburg’s shock bid to prise Nani from Manchester United in the next nine days.
Kinkladze, who retains hero status among City supporters for his performances during a three-year spell in the mid-1990s when the club lived in the shadow of their wealthier and more glamorous neighbours, is now a Moscow-based football agent and has close connections to Russia’s noveau riche clubs.
Sources have told Goal.comthat Kinkladze is working closely with Zenit and England-based intermediaries to take Nani to St Petersburg in what would be a sensational move.
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Kinkladze was the sporting director of Cypriot club Anorthosis for 10 months before leaving in June and has now re-assumed agent duties.
The 39-year-old Georgian, who ended his playing career at Russian club Rubin Kazan in 2006, is well connected, speaks English and has close links to movers and shakers in Manchester and London.
Zenit went public with their desire to sign Nani last Friday, with manager Luciano Spalletti revealing that contact has been made with United over the Portugese winger.
The winners of two consecutive Russian league titles already count Nani’s national team colleague Bruno Alves in their ranks and have the ambition and resources to make an impact in the Champions League.
Despite denials from Old Trafford that Nani will be sold, it is understood that Sir Alex Ferguson is giving serious consideration to cashing in on the Portugese winger although he will not have appreciated Spalletti publicly confirming Zenit’s interest.
Ferguson has strengthened his attacking options by signing Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell this summer, which could be ominous for Nani or Ashley Young.
Although Nani started the 1-0 defeat to Everton on Monday, it was unlikely he would have done so had a defensive crisis not forced Antonio Valencia to be deployed at right-back.
Despite being a key creator and goalscorer for United in the three seasons that followed Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid, Nani has frustrated Ferguson with his inconsistency.
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Zenit have not made a formal offer for the Portugese but may be prepared to start the bidding at around the £20 million mark.
The Russian club are keen to bolster their ranks this summer to maintain their status as top guns in their homeland and be competitive in the Champions League.
Speaking last Friday, Spalletti spelled out his interest in Nani as well as Porto winger Hulk and Barcelona attacker Ibrahim Afellay.
“Are we interested in Hulk and Nani? Yes we are,” Spalletti said. “Everything's going to depend on how much they cost.
“There are three more players who we're holding negotiations with besides Nani and Hulk, but I won't name them. But if you want one more name, it's Afellay.”
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