As first reported by Paul Tenorio of The Athletic ($), Orlando City has signed Portuguese midfielder Nani to a Designated Player contract. The Lions got the former Manchester United star on a free transfer, meaning there was no up-front fee to buy the player. The DP deal is for three years.
“This is an exciting day for our organization,” said Orlando City SC EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi. “Nani brings tremendous experience to our roster. He’s a dynamic winger with quality abilities to move and cross the ball, impact games and lead the offensive play.”
Because Orlando City already had three Designated Players, The Mane Land’s sources say that Sacha Kljestan’s contract will be bought down under the maximum salary threshold using allocation money.
After coming up with Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, the winger was acquired by English giants Manchester United in 2007 where he was seen as the long-term replacement for the aging Ryan Giggs. During his over seven years at Old Trafford, Nani accumulated 230 appearances across all competitions with 40 goals and 73 assists. He won the EPL championship four times and a UEFA Champions League title in 2008.
Following his departure from Manchester in the summer of 2015, the winger played for Fenerbahce, Valencia, and Lazio. This season, he had rejoined his original club, Sporting Lisbon, where he made 18 league appearances, recording seven goals and four assists and has captained the side.
Internationally, Nani has represented Portugal 112 times, playing in three FIFA World Cups and three European Championships, scoring 24 goals. His latest appearances came this summer at the World Cup in Russia, where the midfielder made three appearances for his country.
What this means for Orlando City
Orlando City has been looking for a winger to join the first team and Nani fits that billing. Despite being 32 years old, he has still been playing at a high level for club and country and is a very good addition for this team. He will most likely slide into James O’Connor’s starting lineup on the left, though he does have some midfield versatility.
Nani is a good crosser of the ball — a skill that hasn’t always been present for the Lions — and good with the ball at his feet. He should be able to replace Yoshimar Yotún’s assists from last year while providing more of a goal-scoring threat than the Peruvian did.
Orlando City will need to use an international slot on Nani. Uri Rosell and Josué Colmán have recently gotten their green cards, and the club is working to get Canadian goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh and Portuguese defender Joao Moutinho their green cards as the 2019 season approaches, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
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