Portuguese star Nani on Monday joined Fenerbahce from Manchester United for six million euros (A?4.26m, $6.7m) as the Istanbul giants seek to add a glittering array of foreign talent to their ranks for the new season.
After last month’s signing of Danish centre-back Simon Kjaer from French side Lille, Fenerbahce are reportedly also close to signing Manchester United striker Robin van Persie.
Nani, 28, a United player since 2007, spent all of last season on loan at his former club Sporting Lisbon and was not expected to figure in manager Louis van Gaal’s plans for the coming season.
The Cape Verde-born winger arrived at an Istanbul airport to a hero’s welcome from Fenerbahce fans late on Sunday and underwent a successful medical on Monday.
Thousands of fans then turned out at the club’s Sukru Saracoglu stadium to welcome Nani and witness the signing of his three-year contract.
“I am so happy and proud to be a Fenerbahce player from today,” said the Portuguese.
Clearly moved by the fans’ welcome, he added: “From now, I am sure I made the right decision to come here. It’s a great opportunity.”
Nani said he would not make promises but vowed: “I will give my heart for the club. I will give my best for every game.”
In his eight years at United, Nani scored 41 times in 230 appearances. He won four Premier League titles and the Champions League under former manager Alex Ferguson.
Meanwhile, Nani’s United teammate van Persie, 31, whose 2014/15 season was blighted by an ankle injury, could arrive in Istanbul as soon as Tuesday to agree terms with Fenerbahce, the Hurriyet daily reported.
Turkey’s NTV channel meanwhile said an initial agreement had already been made for Van Persie to join on a four-year deal.
However Van Persie’s manager Kees Vos was quoted as dousing the speculation in Dutch media, saying the player would be reporting for pre-season training with United as normal.
Turkish press reports have said that Van Persie had been encouraged to join Fenerbahce by their former Dutch stars Dirk Kuyt — who left last season after becoming a firm crowd favourite — and Pierre van Hooijdonk.
Fenerbahce are looking to build a strong team for the new season after losing the Turkish Super Lig title to their bitter Istanbul rivals Galatasaray.
Galatasaray have themselves been active in the transfer market, notably signing German international Lukas Podolski from Arsenal on a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.
Fenerbahce are taking on a distinctly Portuguese hue, and Nani will line up at the club alongside existing Portuguese international stars Bruno Alves and Raul Meireles.
The new Fenerbahce coach is also a fellow countryman of Nani — the former Porto and Olympiakos coach Vitor Pereira.
“They helped my decision has well,” Nani acknowledged. “I am happy to have friends and teammates from my country.”
He said that the purchase of Van Persie would be a “good choice” for the club, hailing his ex-teammate as an “experienced player who can score a lot of goals”.