22 Under 22

"His potential is incredible": Nani backs Orlando City teammate Daryl Dike


Orlando City SC forward Daryl Dike is among the best young players in MLS and was recognized as such with a No. 2 spot on 2021's 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR rankings.

One player who's had a front-row seat to Dike's rapid ascent is Nani, his Lions teammate the last two seasons. The Portuguese legend joined host Stephen Keel for an Instagram Live interview, offering his perspective on the 21-year-old US men's national team forward.

"Daryl is a special boy," Nani said. "For me, very humble. Obviously when the kids start to play the game and start doing well on the field, start scoring goals, you start to feel like a star and you hear the fans calling for your name, it's normal to ... as we say in my country, the nose goes a little bit up.

" ... With the good conversations, he listens to all the players and the coaches, and the lasting result is what you see," Nani added. "He's been humble, he's been paying attention, he wants to help the team, he wants to learn, the most important thing is he wants to learn. Everything he's taken in, he listens. ... I think he's much more mature, he understands much better the game, his motivation is so high, his confidence, he's caring. So it's good for us."

At this point, the only question with Dike is just how high his ceiling is – especially after a successful loan to Barnsley, one that nearly earned them promotion to England's Premier League. To hear Nani tell it, the possibilities are limitless.

"I think he can take his game very far," Nani said. "I always tell him, 'We need to know where we came from.' Once he always knows where he came from, he will know where he goes because he still listens, he still understands there is a lot of things he needs to improve. So when you have that understanding it's easy to go wherever you want. But his potential is incredible. He's so strong, his power to finish, he's improved a lot the way he finishes.

" ... I think if he continues like that very soon, it's very difficult to handle a player like that."

As for his advice to young players in general, Nani offered a clear perspective. The 34-year-old, who developed in the world-renowned Sporting CP academy, also spent nearly a decade at Manchester United.

"Get out of your comfortable area," he said. " ... You need to look forward for something a little bit more than normal. You need to want to be better than your teammates, better than yourself in that moment. You always want to improve more, you want to work as hard as possible.

"You want to feel the fatigue and feel the pain. When you feel the pain and can get through the pain, that is when you really work and you know you are improving and getting better and better. I think that's the best advice I can give now to the kids."