Nani focused on the big picture

While millions of viewers around the country are tuned into the latest search for a pop superstar, Gianluca Nani is involved in his own hunt for the 'X factor'.

If not at a game, the technical director is invariably to be found at home in front of his widescreen TV - wading his way through a mountain of DVDs of the best young talent from this country and around the world.

Nani is approaching six months at the club and is devoting every spare minute to hunting out the best prospects in the global game. In the past at Brescia, he found that special something in the likes of Luca Toni and Andrea Pirlo and his eye for a top-class player shows no sign of abating.

It is an all-consuming task that may perhaps explain why this genial Italian has not yet figured out how his coffee machine works but has managed to bring bargain signings such as Herita Ilunga and Valon Behrami to the club's attention. It is not just about internationals that can go straight into the first team. He has found a prospect like Hungarian Under-19 striker Balint Bajner, who at just 17 is already prospering under Tony Carr's expert guidance within the academy.

As he sits back in his spacious but sparse home in the Essex countryside, Nani comes alive when talking about his task in hand. He is working day in, day out with CEO Scott Duxbury and manager Gianfranco Zola on the infrastructure at West Ham United. The CEO has charged him with establishing a medical centre that specialises in injury prevention, improving the training set-up and setting up an elaborate scouting network. This is no short-term plan.

"I was so pleased to join the club but after six months I am really happy. I know that West Ham is really the perfect club to try and build something fantastic. I have found a really good staff here, a really good team.

"I don't just mean the players but in Scott, Gianfranco and everyone around Chadwell Heath and the Boleyn Ground, I have found something really good. We are really happy to work together and all of us is thinking the same way. We have a football project and we all talk every day to make it happen.

"The idea is that a club like West Ham has to have its own structure, able to sustain a system that allows it to find in advance the best players all over the world. We want to try to build something that could be important to the history of West Ham. I have read a lot of the history of the club, the way that the club has always tried to play, and all the great players that have played here. Now we have to try to build a system to discover in advance the best players, wherever they are in the world."

The relationship with Duxbury and Zola is key and Nani comes to life when quizzed about the way the trio work within the CEO's football project. "It was Scott's vision for the club that impressed me," he said. "He wants to have the best technical and medical department in Europe and we are heading in the right direction. I speak regularly with Gianfranco. He is so clever. He has always been the best at everything he does and he is a pleasure to spend time with.

"We have a close working relationship and we always talk about football. It is our job. It is a good relationship and it is a part of the job, it is professional but it is also pleasure. The CEO, technical director and the manager have to be close.

"Always we see things the same way. If we have £40m for one player, we would prefer to find four or five important players than just one, and have some money for the training ground. I feel so much responsibility for West Ham and not for Gianluca Nani. The club has to be happy with what we have done after ten years.

"We are looking for players that will come in and understand the West Ham direction. We are doing longer contracts for our younger players and we are trying to work with a long-term view. We are happy with the players we have and it is not surprising that other teams want our players when they are doing so well.

"Already, maybe [John] Pantsil has gone but in came Behrami. [George] McCartney left but Ilunga arrived. [Anton] Ferdinand was sold but we had James Collins, James Tomkins and still Danny Gabbidon to come back."

The supporters have really caught his imagination and he has been heartened by the devotion shown. "The fans are really passionate. I like that. When we play away we are never alone - I feel the fans with us and it makes me positive. It is inspiring for the future of West Ham as they are the most important part of the club.

"I want us to be better for them always. They deserve success. It is where we are going at the end of the season that counts most. When some bad news or result comes and you don't die, you become stronger.

"We are really focused and we have to consider every problem as simply an obstacle that we have to overcome to get to our objective. We know we are on the right path for the club on and off the pitch."

With that Nani, whose phone has been flashing and beeping constantly with messages from agents and scouts, draws the interview to a close. "I don't like to talk too much," he said. Although he had barely drawn breath in the previous 30 minutes and can hold court in four languages, it is clear he is someone for whom the phrase 'actions speak louder than words' applies.

"I like to work. Discovering players, seeing how we can cope with problems, helping to organise the club in a better way. Everyone is talking about the Sheffield [United] affair, the sponsor, the banks but people should see how things have improved with the medical department, with the scouting system, the academy, the way that Zola has the respect of the players. There are so many positives." He would never say it, but maybe the name Nani should be added to that list.