From Amadora to Manchester to Melbourne: the rise of Nani

Despite a challenging upbringing, Nani’s love of football propelled him towards an improbable career at the highest level.

Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha, or Nani, grew up in Lisbon’s north-west in the Amadora municipality.

Nani was born into a large family including several older siblings, with whom he lived through a difficult childhood of disadvantage and misfortune.

Nani’s older siblings played pivotal roles in raising him through these early years often in the absence of parents and without much money.

Perhaps the most influential of Nani’s siblings was his older brother, Paulo Roberto, who introduced him to football at a young age.

Nani became fixated with the sport as a result, spending most of his time honing his craft in the streets of Amadora.

Nani’s skill on the ball became immediately apparent as he quickly surpassed those around him with his immense dribbling ability.

Local club Real Massamá were the first to recognise Nani’s abilities, offering him the crucial financial support to pursue a career in football.

Real Massamá’s faith was soon repaid as Portuguese giants Sporting CP would offer Nani a contract just a couple of years later, kickstarting a career which would take Nani all over the world, including most famously to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2007.

Nani’s strong work ethic shone throughout his time in England as he matured into one of the best footballers on the planet, developing a reputation as a creative genius whilst achieving cult hero status in Manchester.

Handed the unenviable task of filling the void left by compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Nani continued to improve over his time at the club and would become a vital cog in the United attack for several seasons.

Although Nani’s Manchester United career would fizzle out by 2014, he would continue to push the envelope and pursue opportunities in Italy, Spain and Turkey, as well as two return stints at Sporting CP.

Nani then took the leap to join Orlando City in the MLS, further solidifying his international reputation throughout his three seasons in the USA in which he scored and assisted prolifically (28 goals and 23 assists in 77 games).

Nani’s time in Orlando also confirmed his leadership credentials as he captained the club for the duration of his stay.

Following a brief return to Italian football with Venezia in the first half of 2022, Nani has taken the plunge to join Melbourne Victory.

A player with nothing left to prove yet an incessant hunger to achieve more, Nani will play his club football in a seventh different country by joining Victory.

The same passion for football and desire to push boundaries from Nani’s youth in Amadora continues to motivate him at 35 years old, offering a hugely exciting prospect for Victory.