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The strange case of Nani's World Cup absence

The famous old saying that “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” has convinced some pundits that there was much more than meets the eye  to the bizarre events involving Manchester United and Portugal star Nani on the eve of the World Cup. The official line from the Portugese camp was that the tricky winger suffered a collarbone injury during a training camp in Lisbon yet he still flew out to South Africa with the team. After training with Carlos Queiroz’s squad for two days however, he was ruled out of the tournament, flew back to Portugal and was replaced by Benfica midfielder Ruben Amorim.

The story became even more confusing when Nani told waiting journalists upon his arrival back in Lisbon that he expected to recover within a week. Does any of that make sense? Is it any wonder that people are asking what is REALLY going on? More questions were raised by the silence from Portugal. Queiroz and his medical staff refusing to shed any more light on the matter. A spokesman simply stated that “After tests were carried out we concluded that he is unfit to participate in the World Cup

That explanation may not sound unreasonable until one considers that Portugal’s second World Cup outing against North Korea was not scheduled until June 21, two weeks after the decision was made to send Nani back home and the crucial clash with Brazil five days later. There’s little doubt that Portugal has always had high expectations of getting out of the group meaning that Nani would have had more than three weeks to overcome his injury for that critical round of 16  knock out game.

Compare that with the situation Ivory Coast found themselves in when captain Didier Drogba broke a bone in his arm, had it promptly operated on and was back in action for the first group game against the Portugese within ten days. Little wonder that eyebrows were raised at the time and questions are still being asked about the real truth behind Nani’s omission from the squad.

Rumours began to circulate almost immediately back in Portugal that Nani had failed a random dope test, an allegation for which there still is no basis. They grew to such an extent that the Portuguese Football Federation and the country’s anti doping authority were forced to put out strenuous denials. Amandio de Carvalho, vice president of the PFF stated that “Nani was indeed injured. He fell badly in training and injured himself”

Head of the Portugese anti doping authority Luis Horta agreed adding that “The rumours going around are without foundation. With the controls carried out at the anti doping authority in Portugal there has been no problem” Horta then went on to say “There’s no intention to hide anything, there’s no need for an operation. Nani just needs time to recover. Urine and blood samples were collected randomly and as far as we know, it all went well”

Apart from the dope testing allegations, talk of a player feud involving Nani and Benfica winger Simao Sabrosa have also surfaced in the Portugal camp. Simao is reported to have felt hard done by when Queiroz gave Cristiano Ronaldo the team captaincy while there is also plenty of rumours that the coach is unable to control the many egos in the squad.

While dissent in the camp cannot be entirely dismissed, any talk of a dope test failure almost certainly can. A more likely scenario is one in which Nani injured his shoulder at training as reported, felt that he could make a quick recovery with which the medicos disagreed then allowed his frustrations to spill over when he arrived back in Lisbon after being replaced in the squad. The whole drama may have been as simple as that.

From a purely Manchester United point of view, this World Cup may not put as big an off season strain on its players as initially feared. Rio Ferdinand and Nani should be over their injuries in plenty of time before the new season kicks off, Michael Carrick looks unlikely to get a lot of game time with England while Patrice Evra’s France will almost certainly have an early exit from the tournament.

On the other hand, the experience will help develop Mexico’s Javier Hernandez even more. Progressing to the next stage appears unlikely for Serbia’s Nemanja Vidic who may not be at Old Trafford next season anyway which just leaves Ji Sung Park and of course Wayne Rooney. The South Korean is not known as ‘Three Lung Park’ for nothing so even if he’s involved in the latter stages of the tournament, his energy levels are such that he will be able to make a quick recovery.

That leaves Rooney and although he has undoubtedly had a very tough twelve months, he is robust enough to be back to his very best after a short break PROVIDING he does not pick up any injuries. Barring anything unexpected therefore,  United look as if at this stage it should be all systems go for the big kick off in August.

Will World Cup commitments have any detrimental effects  on United in the new season?

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