Is it a yes in the Nani vote?

West Ham correspondent Dave Evans looks back over Gianluca Nani s time at the club - IT WAS PERHAPS the worst kept secret at Upton Park since the stories that Dean Ashton was on the verge of retirement. It took West Ham six months of searching and inter

West Ham correspondent Dave Evans looks back over Gianluca Nani's time at the club - IT WAS PERHAPS the worst kept secret at Upton Park since the stories that Dean Ashton was on the verge of retirement.

It took West Ham six months of searching and interviewing before they appointed Italian Gianluca Nani as their first ever technical director, it took new owners David Sullivan and David Gold just over a month to decide he was surplus to requirements and relieve him of his duties.

We suspected that may be the case from the moment Sullivan stepped into the hot seat. In his first interview he stressed that he dealt with transfers himself at Birmingham City and would be just as hands-on at West Ham.

Nani must have been wondering from that moment on just how long he had left at the club, many were surprised he lasted as long as he did.


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So what sort of legacy has the Italian left at Upton Park? When you look at his signings, you can certainly say that five of his finds are still very much in the first team picture.

Valon Behrami - his first and undoubtedly best signing - cost West Ham �5million and is apparently set for a �15m return to Italy in the summer.

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Herita Ilunga arrived at the height of the clamour following the selling of George McCartney and proved, in his first season at least, to be a superior player.

Radoslav Kovac is not everyone's favourite player, in fact he is written off by many, including this writer, but he is a firm favourite of manager Gianfranco Zola and in the last couple of games has shown his worth - not bad for �2million.

Alessandro Diamanti arrived in the summer for �5million and has become a firm crowd favourite, scoring seven goals along the way, while Guillermo Franco has proved more than a bit part player, despite arriving as a free agent.

There is no doubt that Nani cared for West Ham. He even wrote off some of his salary along with chief executive Scott Duxbury to help complete the Franco deal before the transfer deadline after former owners CB Holding refused to finance the deal.

"I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who worked alongside me in this wonderful adventure," he said last week.

"A special thank you also to the fans who have always supported us and whose warmth and dedication gave me a passion for this club that will forever remain with me."

Staying with the positive, Nani has worked hard to try and secure new and better training facilities for West Ham. When the Ford Sports ground in Rush Green is finally up and running, it will hopefully be a fitting memory of his time at the club.

"I would like to thank Gianluca for his contribution to the club and we all wish him well," said Sullivan in an official statement. "With the club heading in a new direction since David Gold and I took charge last month, it was felt the time was right for all parties to move on in an amicable way."

Moving on for West Ham means saving Nani's reported �300,000 annual salary for the final year of his contract. It also means an end to huge payments to players' agents that have dogged the Hammers over the last couple of seasons.

When you look at Nani's signings during his tenure, the success stories like Behrami, Ilunga and Diamanti stick out, but unfortunately they are far outweighed by the failures, none more so than Ugandian-born German wunderkind Savio Nsereko.

Signed supposedly as a young striker as a replacement for the recently departed Craig Bellamy, it became obvious that Savio was very much a work in progress.

For a start he was a winger, he was too lightweight for the Premier League and West Ham already had a better player in their squad, namely Junior Stanislas.

Worse was to come. Not only did Savio arrive from Brescia, Nani's previous club in Italy, but he had also signed him as a 16-year-old from 1860 Munich and became something of a prot�g� of the technical director.

None of it sounded quite right and though Nani undoubtedly had faith in the youngster, the fee of around �5.5million for the then 19-year-old was huge and completely unjustified.

For some of the others the jury is still out. David Di Michele and Diego Tristan were roundly criticised by fans, but didn't cost anything in transfer fees and somehow helped West Ham to ninth place in the Premier League.

The Hammers' careers of Fabio Daprela, Holmar Eyjolfsson, Peter Kurucz and Manuel Da Costa are still in embryo and could prove to be good signings, while the arrival of Walter Lopez, Jan Lastuvka and Luis Jimenez were certainly mistakes.

Alan Curbishley was one of the men responsible for hiring Nani and many would say it was because he had scant knowledge of world football and the players within it, but was the Italian really needed at Upton Park?

"There's been a bit of scepticism about the role," said Curbishley at the time. "I feel Gianluca is the person I need to help me in recruitment for the club. He is vastly experienced and you need the infrastructure because this is a global game."

It certainly is. During Nani's time at the club, he did not sign a single British player.

Zola was always full of praise for his countryman and seemed to work well with him. When you look at Behrami and Diamanti in action, you can't help but think he has been a good thing.

It is never easy to sign players. Sullivan's three acquisitions in the transfer window have hardly set Upton Park alight.

But it is the Savio affair that will blight Nani's time at the club. They may have got back much of the money paid out on him, but if at the time the financial problems were already beginning to engulf the club, then the signing of the little German has to go down as an enormous and costly blunder.

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