Last spring, Renato Sanches was ticketed to be a vital part of Bayern Munich’s future.
In fact, it has been just over one year since Bayern paid Portuguese club Benfica €35 million for the 19-year-old midfielder. Executive board chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said at the time of Sanches’ signing that he is “a dynamic, physical and technically gifted midfielder, who’ll add even more strength to our team.”
Rummenigge had seen that dynamism and physicality up close as Sanches played well for Benfica in a two-leg quarterfinal loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
It was high praise from the chief executive of a team that was in the midst of winning the Bundesliga for the fourth straight season and always stocked with top-self talent. Sanches himself did nothing to dampen expectations after playing an important role for Portugal in its surprise title-winning turn at EURO 2016 and becoming the tournament’s youngest-ever player to score a knockout-round goal in the quarterfinal’s versus Poland.
Fast forward to the present. The perception to fans is that Sanches is out of his depth and Bayern has wasted its money after 25 appearances in all competitions during the 2016-17 season, including zero goals in 903 minutes of action.
The reality is that Sanches, recognized physical and technical gifts aside, only made his first-team debut for Benfica in October 2015 and for Portugal’s senior national team in March 2016, struggled in his first season with Bayern because he is not the finished product yet. The heightened scrutiny that came with being named Europe’s Golden Boy, the continent’s best player under the age of 21 and joining the likes of Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney, while struggling to earn consistent first-team appearances on a veteran team with a veteran players’ coach in Carlo Ancelotti probably did not help matters.
Sanches has been public backed for success by both Ancelotti and Rummenigge as recently as March. Ancelotti said that he was “100 percent” certain that Sanches would be playing for Bayern next season. No sale or loan for Sanches according to Ancelotti.
Rummenigge boldly said that the plan is for Sanches should be to step up and fill the void by the now-retired Xabi Alonso in midfield and that the club wants Sanches “to follow in Xabi’s footsteps. That’s why we bought him."
Of course, if Bayern completes its reported pursuit of another young and talented midfielder, Corentin Tolisso of Lyon, where does the leave Sanches in reference to the prospect of consistent first-team appearances?
The perception is Bayern could already be looking to turn the page on a deal that did not meet expectations for club and player. The reality is that Bayern could be simply be adding another promising young midfield player to the roster to eventually partner with Sanches.