LUIS NANI: ESCAPANDO A LA MARGINALIDAD

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En Sudamérica es habitual que se encuentren personajes a los cuales el fútbol “les salvó la vida”. Jugadores como Carlos Tévez o, más recientemente, Ricardo Centurión son ejemplos de personas nacidas en la pobreza, pero a los que la pelota de cuero les funcionó de vía de escape. Sin embargo, ¿hay casos similares en Europa? Sí. Y Luis Nani es, quizá, el más emblemático.

Nacido como Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha el 17 de noviembre de 1986, en Praia, capital de Cabo Verde, Nani tuvo una infancia muy difícil. Para empezar, a los pocos meses de su llegada al mundo se dio su primera gran mudanza en busca de una mejor vida para su numerosa familia (él fue el menor de nueve hermanos). El destino: Portugal, país muy ligado con la isla africana de donde era originario al haber sido su colonizador. Así, el marginal suburbio de Amadora fue el nuevo hogar de los Almeida da Cunha, un ambiente donde la droga y los robos eran moneda corriente. Una zona poco agradable para crecer y desarrollarse.

Pero los golpes recién estaban por comenzar para Luis Carlos. Cuando apenas tenía 5 años, su padre Domingos Almeida partió a su patria de vacaciones para nunca más volver (tiempo más tarde diría que fue un problema de papeles). Lo cierto es que su madre tuvo que hacerse cargo de todo. María tampoco aguantó la situación, y se marchó con destino a Holanda tras el cumpleaños número 12 de su hijo.

A partir de ese momento todo fue un desafío para Nani. Sin padres, encontró techo junto a su tía Antonia Almeida en el pobre barrio Santa Filomena, al sur de la capital lusa, donde viven muchas familias africanas y cuyas calles internas, hasta esa época, no tenían siquiera un nombre. Allí debió valerse por sí mismo. Aprendió el arte del capoeira y en esas calles dio sus primeras patadas soñando con llegar a ser Luís Figo e influenciado por su hermano mayor, Pablo. Así es como evitaba la marginalidad y los problemas: con fútbol.

Cuando tenía 14, trabajaba con ese mismo familiar y en sus ratos libres lo iba a ver jugar con el Real Massama. En ese preciso club es que disputaría su primera prueba, ampliamente superada a pesar de su precaria situación nutricional. A cambio de jugar, obtuvo dinero, comida, material deportivo, documentos y un pasaporte. De esta forma, luego de sólo dos años, su situación dio tal vuelco y sus ganas habían aumentado tanto que ya entrenaba en Sporting y en Benfica para no perder el estado físico.

Tras un problema con las águilas, firmaría su primer contrato con los leones, siguiendo los pasos de su ídolo. Dueño de una gran potencia, una suprema tenacidad en su juego y un dominio de la pelota casi total, debutó en el primer equipo del Sporting Lisboa en 2005 en la derrota 1-0 ante Udinese por la tercera ronda clasificatoria de la UEFA Champions League. A partir de allí, todo fue en ascenso. El 30 de octubre logró marcar su primer gol frente a Boavista, hecho que repetiría en la fase de grupos de la misma UCL ante el Spartak de Moscú. Luego, obtendría la Taça de Portugal en 2007, y se coronaría como el mejor jugador joven de Portugal del mes de mayo, además de debutar en la selección mayor. Todo esto llamaría la atención del mismísimo Sir Alex Ferguson, por lo que al mes siguiente sería transferido al Manchester United por € 25.5 millones. Nani estaba ante lo más alto de su carrera y ahora debía hacer valer su pretendido papel de sucesor de Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ya en el club inglés, logró convertir en los primeros tres amistosos de pretemporada. Esto sería la antesala de una brillante temporada con 4 goles en 41 encuentros y varios títulos (Premier League, Champions League, FA Community Shield 2007 y 2008 y el futuro Mundial de Clubes). Sin embargo, tras la ida al Real Madrid de Cristiano y con el correr de las temporadas, su nivel iría en decadencia. A pesar de anotar 36 tantos en siete años y levantar seis trofeos más, de a poco perdería la confianza de Sir Alex, pudiendo ser titular en cada vez menos ocasiones. Tal es así que en su último campeonato con los «Red Devils», ya con David Moyes en el banco, apenas pudo disputar 13 encuentros en total, con una sola anotación. Por su parte, logró afianzarse como titular indiscutido en la selección portuguesa y, así, disputar dos Eurocopas. En la última, la de Francia 2016, el portugués jugó un papel importante en una posición extraña para él: como delantero. Convirtió goles y se dio el lujo de gritar campeón.
Licha Machado
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Estudiante de periodismo en ETER. Bilardista hasta el cajón. Futuro DT antifútbol.

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