By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
AC Milan and Juventus have chased the same transfer target many times before, and will doubtless do so with regularity in the future, but as the two clubs prepare for a potential arm-wrestle over Manchester United winger Nani, they both face a multitude of questions over the Portuguese’s suitability to their squads.
Goal.com exclusively revealed on Thursday that the race for the wide man is hotting up, and United are looking set to cut their losses on the 25-year-old. With his form not matching that of Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia, his first-team chances have become increasingly rare of late, and his recent training ground bust-up with attacking midfielder Davide Petrucci smacks of a player whose frustrations are spilling over off the field.
Five years on from arriving at Old Trafford, Nani is arguably no closer now to being a first-team regular than he was when he signed in 2007, and as a result there’s a very real possibility that one of the Italian giants could swoop. But where would Nani fit best?
At Milanello, much depends on the future of Massimiliano Allegri. The Rossoneri coach has finally begun to show more freedom in his tactical shape of late, and the 4-3-3 – in which Nani could be a real weapon – was a favourite of his at Cagliari.
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In the Milan forward line, he could supply the kind of danger which would open up space for Giampaolo Pazzini. The former Inter striker has been largely impotent due to the lack of quality delivery around the final 12 yards since moving across the city in the summer, and the Cape Verde native may be just what ‘Pazzo’ needs.
However, Nani’s wage demands could be a massive sticking point at Via Turati. His current £90,000 (€111,000) a week wages would need to be matched at the very least – he was said to have asked for £130,000 (€160,000) from Zenit St Petersburg in the summer – and when taking into account that United would hope to recoup the £20 million (€24.6m) they paid for him in 2007, that converts to a potential total cost of €47.6m over the span of a four-year contract.
Would Milan really be ready to commit so much on a player when Thiago Silva’s sale saved them just €10.4m more than that? (They made €42m in the Brazilian’s transfer fee, plus saved four years on his previous contract at €4m a year). He would certainly suit Pazzini’s play, but what about Alexandre Pato’s? Or Stephan El Shaarawy’s? Or Robinho’s? Or Bojan Krkic’s? Spending nearly €50m on a player to justify a misguided purchase in Pazzini doesn’t make sense, especially for a club in such a financial predicament as Milan are in at the moment.
Over at Juventus, there is perhaps more room for manoeuvre. Firstly, they have the money, with the extra revenue streams of Juventus Stadium, which regularly sells out in Serie A, and the return to Champions League football meaning the Bianconeri are positively flush in comparison to Italy’s other big teams right now.
The Turin club have also been admirers for some time. The first mumblings of an interest in Nani came as long ago as May 2011, when Milos Krasic was struggling in the black and white shirt. Back then, Nani was still confident of attaining regular football with United, and Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t keen to sell. Things are different now though.
Doing it tough | Nani is having trouble at United, but he has the skill set to suit Serie AMuch of Antonio Conte’s approach is about togetherness, and some of Nani’s recent escapades may not fit within his vision. But Arturo Vidal has had trouble with the Chile national team since joining Juve, and Conte has been able to keep him happy. Also, the coach had difficulties with Fabio Quagliarella soon after taking over, but would eventually use the striker at key times in their successful Scudetto push last season, proving that he is not necessarily a hard-liner. One may well find that Nani’s attitude would change with a regular shirt in any case.
Would he get one? Well, that would likely depend on how the Bianconeri’s formation evolves. Having originally set up in a 4-2-4 on day one as boss, Conte has since trialled a 4-3-3 and switched to 3-5-2. But as they take on more and more games, he could well decide to go back to the 4-3-3 to which the vast majority of his squad seem ideally suited.
It is true that a wide man is not Juve’s priority, with a striker definitely needed and either a left-back or centre-back also high on the agenda, but that doesn’t mean he would be a bad purchase. He has proven fleetingly at United in the past that he can usurp full-backs even when given little space in between the lines, and that could happen again if given a fresh start in Turin. Now might be a difficult time, but he undoubtedly has the talent to break out at some point.
Relations between United and Juve are not great as a result of the Paul Pogba stand-off, and that could result in the 19-time English champions playing hardball over a transfer fee, but if the Old Lady can get him at the right price, Nani could be a surprise star for the Scudetto holders.