Signed, sealed and delivered.
It’s official. UEFA Champions League and European Championship winning Portuguese winger Nani has signed for Melbourne Victory ahead of the upcoming A-League Men’s season.
The 35-year-old links up with Victory on a two-year-deal, only days before his new employers face his former side Manchester United in a blockbuster friendly at the MCG on Friday evening.
As first reported by former News Limited journalist Ray Gatt back in May, Victory had been looking into signing the ex-Portuguese international heading into this season in order to bolster their attacking third.
Coach Tony Popovic confirmed Nani had been “put forward” to the club in an interview with SEN.com.au last week, describing him as “a very interesting player”.
Nani made 147 league appearances for United between 2007 and 2015, and was part of the side which won four Premier League titles, two League Cups and the UEFA Champions League in 2008 under legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson.
Along with spending most of his career at the Red Devils, Nani featured for a number of world football heavyweights including Sporting Lisbon, Fenerbache, Lazio and Valencia.
Most recently, Nani had a short stint at Italian side Venezia and was released from his contract last week after the Venetian club were relegated from the Serie A.
The winger also made 112 caps for the Portuegese national side, representing A Seleção at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2008, 2012 and 2016 Euros – where he played an integral role in their historic run to a maiden European championship.
“I’m excited to be coming to the A-League with Melbourne Victory and I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead,” Nani said.
“I have spoken with the coach, Tony, and I know that Melbourne Victory is a Club that wants to achieve success and I want to play a role in helping the team achieve that.
“From what I have seen, the fans in Melbourne are not only the best in the league but they rival the atmosphere in Europe and I’m looking forward to being a part of that on the field in a Victory shirt and playing for them this season.”
Nani is Victory’s seventh new signing ahead of the upcoming campaign, joining Tomi Juric, Paul Izzo, George Timotheou, Noah Smith, Eli Adams and Ahmad Taleb as the club’s most recent arrivals.
His signing is a timely one from a football perspective too, with the announcement coming merely hours after club legend and fellow winger Marco Rojas left Victory for a third time – but on this occasion to link up with Chilean side Colo Colo.
Popovic believes Nani will be a major boost to their front line going into the upcoming season, as they look to build on last season’s highly successful campaign – which saw them go from wooden spooners to semi-finalists in the space of a year, along with winning the FFA (now, Australia) Cup in February.
“We’re proud to be able to recruit a player like Nani to our Club and believe he will be an incredible asset for Melbourne Victory and the entire A-League,” Popovic said
“He has enjoyed an incredibly successful career at both club level and international level and we believe his quality and experience will be key in achieving our ambitions this season.”
The deal comes after Australian Professional League’s (APL) managing director Danny Townsend confirmed earlier this year that the league were looking to bring in more high-profile stars as “sugar hits” to help get more fans into the terraces.
Premier League legend Cesc Fabregas has also been linked with a move down under for the upcoming season, while former QPR striker Charlie Austin recently signed with Brisbane Roar.
After facing Manchester on Friday, Victory will turn its attention to the Australia Cup as they begin their quest for back-to-back crowns against A-League Men’s champions Western United on August 3.