Two years after joining Bayern Munich, Portugal international Renato Sanches finally looks like the €35 million midfielder they were getting back in 2016. The 21-year-old was awarded his first start under head coach Niko Kovac against former club, SL Benfica. Sanches played his part in Robert Lewandowski’s opening goal while he started and finished the move for Bayern Munich’s second.
Receiving a pass in his own half from Arjen Robben, Sanches drove past three Benfica players before playing the ball wide. The ball found Franck Ribery who in turn found the overlapping James Rodriguez whose cross found Sanches. Not wanting to celebrate his first goal since 2016, Benfica fans gave their former player a standing ovation while fans will be hoping his performance against the Portuguese side can set the foundations for the 2018/19 campaign.
Sanches has – and rightfully so – being under some criticism since his €35m transfer to Bayern Munich. Many had argued that his move to a top European league came too early while it would’ve been wise for the then 18-year-old develop in Portugal after just one season of first team football. That said, Bayern Munich had competition from Manchester United to sign Sanches and so it’s also clear to see why they wanted to get a deal done early.
Named in Portugal’s Euro 2016 squad that went on to beat hosts France in the final, Sanches was named Young Player of the Tournament which would have added millions onto his market price – luckily for the Bundesliga side, they managed to strike a deal before the conclusion of the tournament when the two parties reached an agreement in May 2016.
His form during Euro 2016 resulted in fans having high hopes for Sanches but in turn, it’s fair to say he failed to settle into life at Bayern under Carlo Ancelotti. In 939 minutes under the Italian, Sanches struggled to fit into the side before a move to Premier League side Swansea City on deadline day in August 2017. Of course, moving to the Premier League when he didn’t impress at Bayern wasn’t the best of moves while his performances at Swansea City also drew criticism.
An €8m loan fee, Sanches looked lost in a Swansea City side that battled relegation all season. Just 10 games under Paul Clement, the Portugal midfielder returned to Bavaria with his future up in the air.
It wasn’t until the appointment of Kovac at Bayern Munich that things started to look up for Sanches. Many had suggested a move away from the European giants was needed while there were still many teams showing an interest. But instead, Kovac insisted that the 21-year-old remains at the club where he will be used.
Named in Bayern Munich’s squad on Matchday 3 against Bayer Leverkusen, Sanches wasn’t needed but with injuries to Corentin Tolisso and Thiago, he was called upon against Benfica. The dynamic midfielder controlled midfield alongside Javi Martinez while his physical stature proved too much to handle for his former side. It’s now rare to see players using their physique to remain on their feet but that’s something that Sanches did for much of the game on Wednesday evening.
Sanches was rewarded with a goal while his performance must have put him back in Bayern Munich’s plans. Fans on social media congratulated his showing while it’s likely to put him in contention of a starting birth against Schalke on Saturday evening.
Although a poor first season at Bayern Munich followed by a spell at Swansea City, Sanches wants to prove himself at Säbener Strasse while he now feels more mature.
“My smile was always there, I’ve never lost that, but now I feel that I’m more mature, so maybe that gives me a different perspective on a lot of things,” he told Sport1.
“I learned English and also grew closer to a lot of my teammates; I was out of my comfort zone. It was a step, one that has helped me to move forward. Working with the coach is amazing, he manages to address each and every player individually. That’s important to me, but also to the whole team.
“I’m a player who wants to drive with the ball, who can break lines in midfield through a one-on-one situation, a quality that others may not have, and I hope I can help [the team] with these attributes.”
There’s no reason as to why Sanches can’t now go on and establish himself as a first team player at Bayern Munich. The Portugal international clearly has the right mind-set, we know he has the attributes to succeed – all he needed was a coach that believes in him, which is something that Kovac certainly offers.
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