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Setting expectations for Renato Sanches in the second half

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Renato Sanches did not start his career the way many thought he would. Time to reevaluate.

Club Atletico de Madrid v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

He came with a big fee, fantastic dreadlocks and a lot of hype, but Renato Sanches has not had the season many expected from him in the first half of the season.

With four of his eight bench appearances lasting five minutes or less, he seemed like a player Carlo Ancelotti only used when he didn’t want to use any of his other players. That is not encouraging from one of Bayern’s most expensive transfers, even if he is only 19 years old.

But after a winter break to let the first half of the season sink in, perhaps it is time to reevaluate his expectations. The man is still only a teenager and is far ahead in his development than other players his age.

His contributions might have been a let down simply because of what Kingsley Coman accomplished in his first season on loan from Juventus. Renato Sanches was never going to record the six goals and 12 assists that Coman achieved. That said, Renato Sanches did not seem at all close to establishing himself in 2016 like Coman did.

But the Portuguese midfielder showed signs of improvement last December. His last start in 2016 – in Bayern’s 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid – was by far his best. Though he did look lost positionally at times, he had 109 touches and completed 88 of his 97 passes in the game. Granted, his other disappointing performances probably contributed to that Champions League showing looking so good.

Portugal v France - Final: UEFA Euro 2016
Renato Sanches has not been the star he was at the Euros, but maybe expectations were too high
Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

So what should his new benchmark performance be in the second half? How about something like his performance against Rostov, one where he did not make too many mistakes, helped with the build-up play and even fired away a handful of shots. That could be the kind of performance that would make him a consistent rotational piece in Ancelotti’s grand schemes.

His biggest challenge may not be raising his game, but settling in to Bayern’s complex midfield. The depth chart has gotten more packed with Joshua Kimmich and Philipp Lahm getting more repetitions there. Even with Thiago’s injury, Sanches could also could be squeezed out on a potential system change if Ancelotti decides to move a way from his three-man midfield use Thomas Müller next to or behind Robert Lewandowski in attack more often.

But even with his struggles coupled with Bayern’s midfield depth, Renato Sanches had 610 minutes in 15 appearances in the first half, more than Sebastian Rode received all of last season. The 2000-minute threshold seems a tad far fetched, but 1650 minutes is plausible, which is 200 minutes less than Juan Bernat played last season. That would require Renato Sanches playing just over 40 percent more often, a reasonable expectation if he becomes a solid rotational piece down the stretch.

Is a rotational piece what Bayern invested €35 million (plus bonuses) before the season in? Probably not. That would be a solid first season for a teenager, though, and could allow Renato Sanches to show signs of the star he could eventually be.