September 20, 2012
On Nani.

If you balance a pencil on its tip with your finger, and let it drop, it will land randomly with the other end pointing in any given direction. As with any system of chance, do it enough times you will get fairly even results, but you will also get random fluctuations.

Nani seems to perform exactly like any object totally governed by chance and probability, but not so much guaranteed predictability. But if you let a Nani do its thing for long enough, you will eventually witness fabulous, and slightly unexpected and seemingly random fluctuations.

You do not know when these flourishes will take place. They may happen when you begin the sequence, in the middle, during a penalty in a Champions League match, or at the end. A coin flip has a 1 in 2 chance of being heads. A Nani footballing performance is subject to far more possible outcomes.

Nani, a winger, with an extra-special skill-set, faced with almost unlimited choice, is a system with extremely high levels of variation (unlike a coin). But in this system type, when the random fluctuations happen, they tend to be spectacular, and worth waiting for. A Nani is a thing with high variational possibility of plays, moves, executions, goals. More than most. Which is why it can seem especially frustrating when this thing is not producing what it seems easily capable. The lows are really low.

Antonio Valencia gave the ball away 30 times vs Galatsaray. More than any other player in the Champions League this week apparently. May not be a huge surprise to fans who watched the game, but during the game, I’m sure a lot more fans were more often frustrated with Nani, even though Nani created the most chances (5) of any of our players.

So why does Valencia get the tag of the dependable, reliable, and consistent winger, and Nani of the unpredictable, patchy, frustrating winger? It’s clear to me, Valencia is a much more limited player, in terms of his variability, which dulls the senses to his fluctuations of the less-desirable end.  People can relate more easily to Valencia. He’s a work-a-day man.  Trying to understand something as mercurial as Nani is not something we can do as easily.

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Nani is a man with a pained expression on the field of play, a man struggling to control his super-human powers with a football in a way that is useful to those with vested interests in him. Struggling to contain them, even trying to limit them at times so he doesn’t blow the whole thing up. Some players deal with this far better than others. Some players keep composure at nearly all times, and end up winning golden balls, FIFA world players of the year.  For Nani, it seems it is a constant battle. Why? There could be a myriad of reasons. His upbringing was cruelly blighted with desertion by both his parents, at two different times.

A populace’s relationship with it’s more troubled superheros, the writers will tell us, is doomed to a fate of tension, misunderstanding, frustration, and often rejection. Not all born with a special talent have the means to translate it into whats deemed “worthwhile” to the masses. 

Reading the programme notes for the Fulham game, Sir Alex Ferguson, included the line “..when a player has fallen out of love for the club, I tend to help them to the door.” A strange non sequitur, if it hadn’t been written at the time that Nani was in some sort of discussions with Zenit St Petersburg. Interestingly, clearly after some soul-searching, Nani turned down this opportunity. My reading from this is that Sir Alex made no initial moves to lose Nani, but perhaps Nani was beginning to question his role in the club. Was he able to fulfill his potential at United, with it’s unyielding, unending pressure and focus on every movement on the pitch?

Hopefully Nani from Cape Verde, a man with a childhood filled with loss, has rediscovered his love for Manchester United. And hopefully, this can be a story with a happy ending. Or at least a sequel.

  1. giggsboson posted this