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MLS All-Star

'My best season here' - Nani on the MLS All-Star Game, Orlando City ambitions and Dike's rise

6:35 PM IST 25/08/21
Nani Orlando City 2021
The Portuguese star discussed his excitement for the rest of the season as he prepares to lead the MLS team against the Liga MX All-Stars

Nani says he's thrilled to be involved in the MLS All-Star Game once again amid what he sees as his best season with Orlando city so far.

The Portuguese star is in his third season in MLS and, through just 16 appearances, he's already amassed nine goals and six assists for the Lions, who sit second in the Eastern Conference.

For his continued role in leading Orlando, Nani has been named an All-Star for the second time and he's looking forward to leading the MLS team against Liga MX in the first iteration of the game's new format.

Nani's All-Star game experience

The Orlando City star is arguably the biggest name involved for the MLS side with fellow stars Carlos Vela and Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez forced out of the game due to injury.

And, after serving as a sort of ambassador during the last All-Star event in Orlando in 2019, Nani is looking forward to participating and representing the league once again.

"It’s a great thing," he told Goal. "I was involved in my first year here and it was something I enjoyed being involved in it’s always great to be involved with the best players of your league, the environment, the game against the other teams so it’s good to be there and show up and get involved."

Nani went on to add that he believes it would be fun to see some sort of All-Star contest in Europe as a way to give the fans a fun event featuring the game's top stars.

However, he does acknowledge it would be difficult to put together logistically between all of the big leagues.

"Why not? But I think it’s difficult in Europe because of the amount of games and the timing to do that should be at the end of the season," he said. "If it’s something they decide to do it will be nice because when you talk about a different type of game it’s nice. It’s always good to have all the stars involved in the same game and it would be nice for the fans."

'My best season here'

Nani has shined for Orlando City throughout the season as he's helped the club establish itself as an MLS Cup contender.

The club has started strong in each of the last two seasons, making the playoffs last term before losing in their second-round clash with the New England Revolution.

And, after scoring 12 goals and providing 10 assists in his first season in MLS, Nani believes that both himself and the club are having their best season yet as he hopes to help lead the team a step further this season.

"I think it’s been a great season for me and my team," he said. "Obviously we have some difficult moments with a couple of injuries of important players and that complicated the last few games a little bit more. The team is much more stronger and we’ve been performing very well against strong teams in the MLS and getting good results.

"For me especially this season has been my best season here. I feel very confident, I’ve got used to the weather and the games. It’s never easy to play any team because I think it’s very equal with the quality of the players so I think it’s not easy to arrive in this league and just perform. You can see from every player that’s been in Europe and the top leagues and they came here."

He continued. "Comparing my first season to now there’s been a big improvement from the league and the players the quality is better you can see the game is more difficult for both teams. There isn’t that big gap anymore between teams and you can see a more competitive game.

"You see more quality at the front in the attack compared to the defence but I think they’ve been improving last season investing in defenders and midfielders and that’s why the quality has increased in the league."

Dike's rise

While Nani believes the level of player brought into MLS may have risen in recent years, the level of player being sold by the league has also taken a step forward.

The next big-money move from MLS may just be Nani's teammate, Daryl Dike, who shined on loan in the Championship with Barnsley last season.

Dike, who is in just his second professional season, scored nine goals while on loan at Barnsley for the second half of last season after scoring eight in his rookie season for Orlando.

He's been linked with a move back to England, and Nani believes the U.S. men's national team forward is a player that is constantly improving.

"Last year he had the opportunity to move to England and play in the Championship which gave him a different experience in his career," he said. "He could build up his game a little bit more and improve his strength and his qualities and managed to score a couple of goals.

"He’s a young player. He has a lot of things he can still improve but he’s a player who can fly very high. He’s just got to keep his feet on the ground and continue to work hard and have a good mentality."

Nani added: "He has all the qualities. He just needs to improve a couple of things that will make him have more interest. We know he can score goals but he’s still young. Let’s see what happens in the next year. He’s still our player, he still has work to do with us, and he still needs to continue to show he’s a great player."

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