ORLANDO, Fla. – It wasn’t an easy task signing Nani.
For Orlando City SC EVP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi, it took about six weeks, and a trip to Portugal, to convince the Sporting CP player to play for the Lions.
“I don’t think this was something that was going on before I arrived,” Muzzi said during Tuesday’s introductory press conference. “It came to my attention, I say the possibility was like maybe a month and a half ago when we started working on it.”
“Of course, it’s not something simple. It’s not something that you just make a phone call and it’s done. It took a little bit of time to get it all done.”
The 32-year-old former Manchester United star joins an Orlando City team that didn’t have much depth in their attack last year. This year, however, Muzzi and coach James O’Connor were able not only able to add the Portuguese star, but a mix of veteran and young attacking players in Tesho Akindele and Orlando natives Santiago Patiño and Benji Michel, earlier this offseason.
Muzzi lauded Nani, who has 64 goals in a career that has seen him play for Sporting CP, Manchester United, Fenerbahce, Valencia and Lazio, as a player up for the “next challenge in his career.”
“[He’s] a player in the prime of his career that has chosen MLS and has chosen Orlando City as the next step and next challenge in his career,” Muzzi said. “He’s conquered the world in many different places and now it’s time to conquer America.”
A challenge for Muzzi will be getting the team roster compliant by March 1. With the addition of Nani, Orlando City have four Designated Players on their books — one over the league maximum. But Muzzi said the club can quickly acclimate and will more than likely use Targeted Allocation Money to alleviate that issue.
O’Connor also faces a tactical challenge. He’s preferred a 5-3-2 formation for much of preseason, but now the question is where to play Nani? Will the Portuguese international play alongside Dom Dwyer or feature as a winger in a 4-2-3-1?
“The biggest thing for us is when you have somebody that has this amount of quality is try to put him on the most effective areas to allow him to show his quality,” O’Connor said. “So, I think that’s probably the best thing that we’ll be trying to utilize. He’s a world class player who’s had an incredible career. I think for us, we need to very sensible in how we approach utilizing his skillset and try to maximize the opportunity once we have a player like that.”
The Lions have two preseason matches left before their regular season opener against NYCFC on March 2 and Nani is still waiting for paperwork to process before he can be available for selection.
“The two things that we need to do in terms of paperwork is first his work visa and the second is get his international transfer here,” Muzzi said. “We’re working on it, and hopefully he’ll be able to play the first game.”