Nani has departed Orlando City SC after three years with the club as his contract ends, the 35-year-old star announced Friday on Twitter. Later that evening, Orlando confirmed they've declined Nani's contract option.
He originally joined the Lions as a Designated Player in February 2019, signing after stops with Manchester United, Sporting CP and more, as well as becoming the fifth-most capped player in the history of Portugal’s men’s national team.
During Nani’s three seasons with Orlando, he tallied 28 goals and 23 assists across 77 games (64 starts). The winger twice featured at the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, plus helped Orlando reach back-to-back Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the MLS is Back Tournament Final.
“Orlando is a city I can call home, with great people and fantastic supporters, but my contract has ended and there was a decision by the club not to extend it,” Nani wrote on social media. “It was an honor captaining the club for its first-ever playoff appearances and reaching the final of the MLS is Back Tournament.
“I shall never forget how the fans and community supported me and my family ever since the moment we arrived in Florida. You will have in me a friend and a fan for the future. I wish you all the best.”
Nani’s announcement comes three days after Orlando were eliminated from the postseason, dropping a 3-1 Round One result at Nashville SC as the No. 6 seed. Nani was a second-half substitute in that game, though didn’t get on the scoresheet.
"We want to thank Nani for the professionalism that he’s shown in his time in Orlando,” Orlando chairman Mark Wilf said in a release. “Even in the short time since we’ve taken over as stewards of this great club, we have had great respect for Nani’s passion and abilities, while he led us as captain. We wish him the best moving forward.”
A busy offseason is on Orlando’s horizon, as winger Chris Mueller is joining Scotland’s Hibernian after signing a pre-contract. There’s also been persistent transfer interest in US men’s national team forward Daryl Dike.
During the 2021 season, Nani was one of two Designated Players in Orlando alongside midfielder Mauricio Pereyra. This leaves Orlando with at least two open DP slots, while Pereyra previously signed an extension through the 2021 campaign.
“I want to personally thank Nani for believing in this project we’ve started and built together here, and I think it’s been the best decision of my three years here so far,” EVP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi said in a release. “He brought everything that we needed from him, and he is a huge part of where we are today.”