Zenit end €31.5m Nani pursuit after record Hulk & Witsel swoop

The Manchester United winger has been a summer target for the big-spending Russian giants but looks set to stay at Old Trafford after Luciano Spalletti spent heavily on Monday
By Greg Stobart

Zenit St Petersburg are expected to drop their interest in Manchester United winger Nani after the Russian club signed Hulk from Porto and Axel Witsel from Benfica for a combined €80 million.

Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti spoke publicly earlier this month about his desire to sign Nani, who demanded showdown talks with United over his future at Old Trafford last week after slipping down the pecking order because of growing competition for wide roles at the club.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is understood to have given serious consideration to cashing in on the €31.5m-rated winger, although Nani is ready to demand a €6.3m pay-off to quit the club with talks over a new contract at a stalemate.

Former Manchester City winger Georgi Kinkladze, now a Moscow-based agent, played a key role in Zenit’s pursuit of Nani but the 25-year-old but the huge double move announced on Monday now makes a deal highly unlikely.

Zenit, winners of two consecutive Russian league titles, demonstrated their ambition and resources by bringing Hulk and Witsel to the club on five-year contracts, beating off competition from a number of European clubs.

Although Nani will stay at United until at least January, his future remains in doubt as he enters the final two years of his contract.

Ferguson has strengthened his attacking options by signing Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell this summer, which could be ominous for Nani’s long-term future.

He started the Premier League opener against Everton but was left out of the squad completely to play Fulham, before featuring as a second-half substitute in Sunday’s win over Southampton.

Asked about his interest in Nani earlier this month, Spaletti said: “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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