Here at The Peoples Person, we’re always looking to keep our readers in touch with the world of football outside of England.
In our latest interview, we spoke to Portuguese football writer Jan Hagen about Portugal, its ties to Old Trafford and he offered his own views on topics such as Nani’s future, William Carvalho and Marcos Rojo.
Hi Jan, thanks for talking to us. Introduce yourself to the readers.
Óla! I’m a freelance journalist who likes to watch, write and tweet about Portuguese futebol.
In recent years Manchester United have been linked with numerous players from the Portuguese League, most consistently Nico Gaitan and Ezequiel Garay, but very few have actually panned out. Do you see any reason why?
Ezequiel Garay was actually set to join Man United in the summer of 2013 as he was a player Ferguson really wanted. However, Moyes prevented the deal from happening as he didn’t want Garay in his team. I’m quite sure he regrets he did that now. On a more general basis the Portuguese papers love to link players away from Portugal and especially with Man United because of your huge fan base and the big amount of attention they get from doing it. The Portuguese papers have decreased the amount of pointless rumours the last few years and have become far more accurate. The same can’t be said about most of the English press.
Of the current crop in Portugal, are there any names that you think would be a worthy addition to the Old Trafford ranks?
Yes, definitely! Where do I even start? Porto’s right-back Danilo could definitely be a great and a much needed addition for Man United. So would Sporting’s defensive midfielder William Carvalho but for me Nico Gaitán would fit Man United’s current needs the most. The little genius can play both as a winger and as an attacking midfielder. He has decent pace but what really defines him as a footballer is his incredible vision, passing and sublime technique. Honourable mentions: Jackson Martínez, Yacine Brahimi, Eduardo Salvio, Talisca, Alex Sandro and Óliver Torres.
One man who did move to United in the summer was Argentine defender Marcos Rojo, a signing which was questioned by a few of the Sporting Lisbon fans who doubted he was consistent enough for the top level. What do you make of his progress since his £16m transfer?
As some may remember I was one of those who doubted Marcos Rojo and he has proven me wrong. To some point. It’s no surprise he’s doing well and I’m really happy he’s going strong but I still doubt he has what it takes to be a starter for a team who fights for Champions League and Premier League titles, which Man United should be. However, I’d happy to be proved wrong. Man United haven’t always been lucky when importing players from Portugal, so nothing would be better than Rojo doing well and increasing the reputation of the Portuguese league.
In your opinion, just how good can Rojo become under Louis van Gaal? Does he have the attributes to become a great player in the future?
Rojo has yet to make a big blunder in England which he had plenty of at Sporting, so he has already taken steps under van Gaal. He certainly has the attributes. He has the physique and defensive abilities to do well but I’m questioning the mental part of his game. His understanding, marking, positioning, aggressiveness. If van Gaal can get a hold of that, which is a lot of work, but not impossible, then surely Man United will have a great center-back at their hands.
The deal that took Rojo to Manchester saw Luis Nani move the opposite direction with the Portuguese re-signing with Sporting on a one year loan. How has he fared since his return to the Estádio José Alvalade?
He was greeted like a hero upon his return and Nani started the season fantastic. He did great in the Portuguese league but even better on the European stage, thriving in the Champions League. He has had a dip of form after Christmas but he’s definitely a key man for Os Leões.
When the loan spell comes to an end in the summer do you see him staying in Lisbon longer or will his form in Portugal set him up for a move to a stronger European side?
Nani is too good to be playing Portuguese football. He’s only 28 and still have a couple years left in one of the biggest leagues in Europe. Besides, Sporting could never afford his wages.
United have a long running relationship with Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes, who has accommodated many high profile deals involving the Reds. As his relationship with Ed Woodward strengthens some are saying he has too much influence at United, do you agree?
I’m not sure how his relationship to Woodward is but there are both ups and downs with doing business with Mendes. On one hand you’ll have access to the best players on the planet but on the other he’s an expensive man to keep happy.
Finally Jan, with the clear out under van Gaal set to continue this summer, will there be any interest in any of United’s stars from Portugal in the upcoming transfer window?
I can’t see any Man United players moving to Portugal in the close future. Very few of the players would consider playing in Portugal and the clubs would have big problems offering anything close to what they are earning in England.
Thanks once again to Jan Hagen for talking to us. For more updates on Portuguese football, follow Jan on Twitter on @PortuBall.