A lot can be said of Antonio Valencia, humble, shy, hard-working but one word will always spring to mind when you mention his name – Consistent.
When Cristiano Ronaldo fulfilled his dream to sign for Real Madrid, I, like many United fans, started worrying about the new season and how was Sir Alex going to replace him. A lot of names were mentioned from Franck Ribery to Ashley Young, many of them way overpriced which resulted because of the 80 million pounds fee for Cristiano Ronaldo and the 60+ fee Real Madrid paid for Kaka. While I’m sure many of us wanted the big name signing of Ribery, there was someone out there that was constantly rumored to Manchester United – Antonio Valencia.
When he did eventually sign for United for a fee around 18 million pounds it did raise a few heads, eyebrows, knees and toes, and when he failed to make a more than impressive start in his first few outings, many of us started doubting the lad. I’ll be honest when he did sign I did fear for the worst.
I did not watch a lot of Wigan the previous few seasons and when I did it was when United were playing Wigan. However though I put on my best poker face and went to tell all my friends and family he was going to be brilliant, while I felt in my mind that in a few months time I could be slated for all of this.
However though I shouldn’t have feared. Real Madrid also wanted to sign him, and Real Madrid don’t sign any old mugs, they sign great players and turn most of them into mugs! Also seeing as he is a United player he chose Manchester United over Real Madrid, being that he’s from South America you would think he’d be more suited to Spain and would also want to prove something to Villarreal who let him go.
However he signed for us which meant he was committed to playing for United and didn’t see United as a doorstep to a big Spanish club.
How he has proved me so wrong in a year! He’s no Ronaldo, sure, but he got seven goals which is a decent tally for a winger, however his main assets is his crossing without a shadow of a doubt. It brought back the years of ‘Golden Balls’ Becks who ever since he left we never really had an out-and-out great crosser of the ball.
When the ball goes to Antonio you know what he’s going to do, shimmy to the outside of his defender and provide a great ball, simple but highly effective. Also very difficult to stop given his natural pace, and since he has a very low profile managers never make sure he gets extra attention.
Also Antonio is a team player, and the Manchester United vs Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge where he did a number on Ashley Cole for the majority of the game proved that. If you get the chance to watch that game again listen to how many times Ashley Cole’s name is mentioned, it’s not a lot.
Last season was a good season for Antonio and Nani, often got me thinking who’s the better player?
When Nani clicks into gear he is a force to be reckoned with, but the keyword to highlight there is ‘when‘, because when the ball arrives to Nani’s feet you don’t know whether he’s going to do what he did at Arsenal and rip three or four defenders to shreds before scoring a great goal, or check inside and sky a shot miles over the bar. While he has improved on that last season he still is very unpredictable.
Nani has endured a tough career at Manchester United so far. He has often been cached into the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo, and until his Portuguese compatriot left for Madrid have we seen what seems to be the real Nani, a huge talent that once he smooths out his rough edges is sure to be a powerhouse name in world football.
With great skills, quick feet and a shot that would rival any one on the planet when he strikes it correctly the lad had a lot going for him. While Ronaldo seemed to enjoy the celebrity life and all the publicity he got and the way he reveled in being the most hated player in England after 2006 World Cup, Nani seems a more level headed guy, with Sir Alex describing him as shy.
You never hear about Nani getting into trouble outside football unlike a certain Brazilian. Nani has showed us without doubt he isn’t a wannabe Ronaldo he is his own person and a very good footballer, who can provide the goods on the big occasions.
However for me the winner is Antonio Valencia, if anyone watched the first leg of the last 16 game of the Champions League game where Manchester United took on AC Milan, you would have seen for the first 60 minutes Nani make waste after wasted cross on one of his worse days, enter Valencia just back from injury and a rest from the team and within a few minutes he provides an excellent ball to the head of Wayne Rooney and United are 2-1 up and go on to win 3-2.
That game showed me if given the option to pick Nani or Valencia, I would pick Valencia. For me Antonio is a player who will week in, week out get a seven or eight out of ten, Nani however is a player could be a five or six out of ten one week to a nine or ten the next. However since Manchester United have both we can enjoy the best of both wings.
We’ll all be expecting more from Nani next season, while for Valencia more of the same please!
What do you think? Who would you have in your team Nani or Valencia? Maybe these will help you decide: