Early Doors

The moment Nani became great

Early Doors

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Early Doors has never been a big fan of Nani.

There has always been an assumption that he was the natural
heir to Cristiano Ronaldo - and in fairness the two have plenty in common.

They come from the same country, play in a similar position,
are both (reasonably) two-footed, possess lavish skills and throw themselves on
the floor a lot.

But to focus on those superficialities ignores the reality
that Ronaldo is a once in a generation talent while Nani, frankly, isn't. He
has always seemed inconsistent, selfish and lacking the vision and intelligence
that made Ronaldo's conversion from winger to striker so smooth.

However, ED is starting to wonder if it has misjudged Nani
after his goal against Tottenham on Saturday.

If you haven't seen it, have a butcher's here (UK only).

Basically Nani had a (decent) penalty shout turned down, but
grabbed the ball as he went to ground.

The linesman flagged for handball but referee Mark
Clattenburg allowed play to continue (either because he hadn't seen the offence
of because Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes already had the ball).

Gomes put the ball on the ground in front of him as if to
take a free-kick and Nani simply knocked it into the net.

Controversy raged, but the goal stood. Graham Poll actually
does a very good job of breaking down the incident in today's Daily Mail

(not a sentence ED thought it would ever write).

It might have been a simple piece of opportunism, but these
kinds of controversial goals always tend to be scored by great players.

While everyone else is arguing about the rules, these
players have already taken advantage of them.

Last week Cristiano Ronaldo himself caused controversy when
he exploited a loophole in the offside law so big Ann Widdecombe could foxtrot
through it.

Playing for Real Madrid last week, Ronaldo was roughly 20
yards beyond the last outfield defender at all times, but was behind Mesut Ozil
when the German crossed, and tapped in unmarked. By the (very silly) letter of
the law, it was a different phase of play, so a valid goal.

That old chestnut used to be a favourite of Ruud van
Nistelrooy - proof that while the pair bickered like an old married couple at
Manchester United, Ronaldo learnt a thing or two from his ex-colleague.

Long before the Hand of Frog, Thierry Henry was creating
pieces of controversial magic.

Poll was the referee when Henry scored a quickly-taken
although his majestic nicking the ball off Brad Friedel
as the keeper prepared to clear was chalked off on the deeply bogus grounds
that throwing the ball up and kicking it are considered all one action.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also had an effort like this disallowed.

And, of course, arguably the most controversial goal ever
was scored by arguably the best player ever, Diego Maradona.

The point is, it takes a player of special talent to have
the imagination and brass neck to do the unexpected, and to push the boundaries
of the game (granted, by this definition Dion Dublin and Gary Crosby are also 'great' players).

Nani might just have come of age as a footballer.

- - -


Harry Redknapp's take: "Mark Clattenburg is responsible
for one of the worst refereeing decisions EVER. And each time I watch it, it
gets worse. It was laughable the way it happened - and he knows it himself. I
like Mark Clattenburg. He is a good, honest guy and a good referee - but he
knows he's cocked this one up. He's had a nightmare. I know he has told people
he should have blown his whistle and given a free-kick against Nani for

ED's take: "Heurelho Gomes is responsible for one of the worst goalkeeping
errors EVER. And each time I watch it, it gets worse. It was laughable the way
it happened - and he knows it himself. I like Gomes. He is a good, honest guy
and a good keeper - but he knows he's cocked this one up. He's had a nightmare.
I know he has told people he should have played to the flipping whistle and not
assumed the ref had given a free-kick against Nani for handball.

FOREIGN VIEW: Touchy hacks alert: Brazilian reporters
greeted Luis Felipe Scolari by wearing red clown noses when he arrived with his
Palmeiras team to play Goias in a Brazilian championship match.

The journalists were protesting after Scolari called a
reporter a clown at a news conference in midweek when his team played a match
in the Copa Sudamericana, the region's equivalent to the Europa League.

"He needs to be reminded that we're not here to have
fun, we're also working. Our radio won't interview Big Phil so long as he
doesn't apologise," reporter Ricardo Martins said. Mid-table Palmeiras
beat one-from-bottom Goias 3-2 and are 10 points behind leaders Fluminense. Scolari,
who managed an embarrassed grin at his reception, sent one of his players to
the post-match news conference preferring not to attend it himself.

He had lost his cool on Thursday after his team were held
1-1 by Atletico Mineiro when he was asked why he had fielded midfielder Jorge Valdivia,
who was substituted after only 18 minutes of the game.

"Go and interview the doctor. You lot are just clowning
around and you're one of the biggest clowns," he said, gesturing towards
one television reporter.

COMING UP: It's another early-season quota-filler for the
satellite TV people - Blackpool v West Bromwich Albion from 20:00 UK time.

And if you missed any of the weekend's action, we've got
video highlights of the whole shebang. (If you don't live in the UK you can
comfortably ignore that last sentence.)

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