Nani played his 100th game for Manchester United on Sunday – against Chelsea. Sky took the opportunity to compare him to the man he’s been compared to since joining Man United – Cristiano Ronaldo.
The statistics show that both scored the same number of goals in 100 games but Nani had a lot more assists (33 to 12).
What the statistics don’t show is that CR was 18 when he first played for United and Nani was 20.
The stats also don’t show the timing of each goal or assist. The timing of positive actions on the field has a significant importance.
A winning goal in the 91st minute is far more important than a goal scored in the 64th minute in a 4-0 route. Stats don’t show that.
Apart from the fact that Ronaldo got better and better after his first 100 games in United and it’s still unclear if Nani can get better, the numbers don’t tell the whole story about the differences between the two players.
Nani might have better stats than his compatriot but the main difference between the two is that CR has an X-Factor statistics can’t pick up. Yet.
Carlos Queiroz, former Manchester United assistant manager, said once that Ronaldo’s talent is like Michael Jordan’s – meaning he is taking games on himself. Winning them “on his own”. One “Jordanic” moment Ronaldo has conjured was his goal in the 88th minute against Fulham a few seasons ago. It was a crucial game for Manchester United’s season.
Nani might have scored and assisted some very important goals for Manchester United and he might be a better team player than CR – but he is not Ronaldo. He is a great player but the iconic moments he leaves to Wayne Rooney. He is more Scottie Pippen than Jordan.
In short, Nani just doesn’t have that X-Factor. The factor that turns a $25m dollar player into a $100m dollar player.