Mourinho goads United by wading into Nani situation
Jose Mourinho has suggested that Luis Nani is "motivated" during his season-long loan spell at Sporting Lisbon to "relaunch" his career at Manchester United.
That opinion might cause some surprise at Old Trafford and with United's supporters, despite the fact that Nani did sign a new five-year deal only last year. His No 17 shirt has been taken - by new signing Daley Blind. He is not expected back.
Nani's return to the club where he started his career was a condition of Sporting Lisbon selling Marcos Rojo for £16m - coincidentally the same fee United paid for Nani seven years ago - with United meeting Nani's £4.8m wages for the season. In full. It is an expensive situation for United and may say as much about their desire to move on Nani as to acquire Rojo, who has endured an unconvincing start in England.
"It must have been in special circumstances," Mourinho said in an interview with Portuguese newspaper 'Record'. "Without wanting to enter into areas which aren't my own, it will have been the consequence of the transfer of Rojo to Man United.
"What counts in practice is that Sporting have a player of great quality in the best years of his career. Perhaps his aim is not to stay at Sporting until the end of his career, but to relaunch it and return to Man United. He must be very motivated in this new spell.
"Normally, players want to play without losing money. Sometimes, there are two situations which aren't easy to reconcile. There are always great players who want to leave because they're not playing. The problem is knowing where to and with what conditions.
"There are clubs which pay a part of the salary. In this case Man United had a new manager wanting to restructure his squad, a lot. I presume there must have been interest from the club in Nani leaving.
"If the player benefits from that, I don't know. If Man United have benefited from that, I don't know. If Sporting have benefited from that is absolutely certain."
So far Nani's return to Sporting, however, has been patchy. Mobbed at the airport, he missed a penalty and was booked on his debut, but scored of a sensational goal recently in a rare convincing win in the league.
United fans might be surprised that a key role for the winger in this Sporting team is to be the senior player. Nani is rebuilding his reputation, although Sporting coach Marco Silva said: "Nani's adaptation to a new club was an easy feat. He came home. He knew his team-mates, he grew up with them."
The Portuguese club have an extremely youthful starting XI - their greatest asset, 22-year-old holding midfielder William Carvalho, was offered to United and Arsenal in the summer but only at the prohibitively high price of £37m - as they have returned to the Champions League after an absence of five years.
Nani scored in the 1-1 draw away against Slovenian champions Maribor in Sporting's first tie back in the competition and also endeared himself further to his new - old - club with his work-rate as he charged down the ball to create an equalising goal for Islam Slimani in the Lisbon derby against Benfica which ended in a 1-1 draw.
"Nani has brought us confidence, especially in the Champions League," Algeria striker Islam Slimani said. That will be tested against Chelsea.
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