Date: 28th September 2009 at 9:31pm
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Nani and Ronaldo are still in touch from time to time, the younger Portuguese winger admitted after the game at Stoke. United won that 2-0 to go top for the first time this season but it was a personal lowlight for Nani who was substituted after 55 minutes to make way for eventual matchwinner Ryan Giggs.

Fergie said ‘Nani did well’ but it hardly fooled anyone: the winger flattered to deceive again, not for the first time even though this season he’s been relatively good, compared to last season. Now would be the time for him to step out of Ronaldo’s shadow, as our Ballon d’Or winner had departed but so far Nani seems unable to perform anywhere near his rich potential.

‘Cristiano and I talk a lot,’ Nani revealed to Sky Sports News.

‘We speak about my own game and he gives me confidence to go out and perform.’

Fergie gives him the chances, as he usually does with talented young players but time must be running out for Nani. He could do well to pick up some tips from his compatriot if they indeed talk – but Nani will never be able to really emulate Ronaldo.

Stoke fans chanted ‘You’ll never be Ronaldo’ to Nani and to be frank, they’re right. Ronaldo was never among the more intelligent players – and by intelligence I mean footballing intelligence. He had great pace, a brilliant array of tricks but never really became a creative player in the Ronaldinho mould because he did not have the brains for it.

Nani’s got similar problems: his technical skills are excellent but his decision-making is horrible. He’s a good dribbler, a great crosser, he’s got pace, he’s got a good shot – but he can’t decide when to use which.

Ronaldo, however, became the best player of the world and Nani’s still struggling to be regarded even as a good player. Why is that?

First, Nani lacks the single-mindedness of Ronaldo. He’s more relaxed, he’s got a smaller ego which does him no favours in this case. Ronaldo simply could not tolerate mediocrity, he wanted to be outstanding and eventually he found a way to be precisely that.

However, the route he found is blocked for Nani: he just doesn’t have Ronaldo’s astonishing athleticism. He’ll never be the powerful, unstoppable goalscorer Ronaldo became because he does not have the tools for it. He’s not as strong, not as fast, not as good in the air, not as direct. Yes, direct: Ronaldo became a very, very direct player. Gone were the needless tricks, the endless dribbles: he cut them out as they did not advance his chances of becoming the best player in the world.

Ronaldo said he firmly believed Nani would go on to become one of the best players in the world. For the reasons above, I think that is out of the question – Nani has an awful lot of work to do in order to be simply a quality winger. I hope Fergie’s got some brilliant idea about how to achieve that, how to make Nani cut out all the redundant stuff – it might be easier to simply replace Giggs’ brain with his.