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Will a year in the incubator work for Renato Sanches?

Niko Kovač is trying to salvage the career of Renato Sanches, hoping that Bayern provides the world-class developmental environment for the Portuguese international to succeed.

Bongarts/Getty Images

Renato Sanches is one of the more polarizing figures on the Bayern Munich roster. Just mention his name and battle lines are immediately drawn:

  • Sell him! He’s already had his chance to show us something but he’s generally let us down since he arrived.
  • Stay patient! He’s just 21 and still has time to develop into a quality player.

These extreme positions leave very little middle ground. This season, however, presents the Bayern brass with a unique opportunity to experiment with their Portuguese asset. Might a full year of training in a top-flight environment (but without substantial game time) benefit Sanches more than a year elsewhere surrounded by less talent on a daily basis, but receiving far more game time?

If you base your opinion on Sanches’ disastrous loan stint at Swansea City last season, you probably are more inclined to follow Bayern’s lead and proceed with a year spent mostly on the training ground, as Sanches learns how to be a professional both on and off the field. The question is interesting, but the results won’t be known any time soon.

The great “Niko Kovač Reclamation” project

It’s true, the Bayern coach has personally claimed an interest in Sanches’s development. But in a midfield so deep, the Portuguese international is — at best — the sixth choice after James Rodriguez, Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Leon Goretzka, and Corentin Tolisso (leaving aside the fact that Thomas Müller’s role at the 10 spot provides more traffic on the roster centrally). Can Kovač keep Sanches engaged enough to stick to the development program?

History says “no,” if you look back at his meltdown at Swansea City, leaving the Welsh club just as eager to return Sanches to Bayern as Sanches was to escape Wales. Kovač, however, will toss history out the window and focus on slowly pushing Sanches to improve via training, while hoping the midfielder can absorb some of the veteran knowledge that is surely flowing on a daily basis at Säbener Strasse.

The case for more time

Renato Sanches is being given the opportunity to prove himself under Niko Kovač.
Bongarts/Getty Images

In essence, Bayern has nothing but time to spend on Sanches. Since his contract does not expire until June 30, 2021, the Bavarians have essentially two-and-a-half years to invest in Sanches before they ultimately have to decide whether he figures in their future plans. A lot can happen in that time, especially under the watchful eye of Kovač, who is personally investing in Sanches.

Having just earned an international call-up (after his omission from Portugal’s World Cup squad), Sanches may get a chance to show whether Kovač’s developmental plan is beginning to bear fruit. Since field time in Munich so hard to come by, the upcoming international break may be a golden opportunity for Sanches to show Bayern, Portugal, and the world that he has recovered from what might have been a case of “too much, too soon.”

The raw potential is still there but needs more time for fine-tuning.

The case for change

Sanches’s pathway to field time is not only blocked by esteemed veterans like James, Thiago, and Martinez, but also by up-and-coming talents like Goretzka and Tolisso, who not only have shown far more talent and ability to this point on their respective careers, but also have just earned the right to more playing time by actually performing when called upon.

Simply put, Bayern doesn’t need Sanches. It’s not unreasonable to ask why the club should waste any more time on an asset that it may never use. Was Renato Sanches the investment equivalent of a new car? — that is to say, has his value done nothing but decline since Bayern “drove him off the lot”?

They just don’t need him...even for the future.

A look ahead

After an underwhelming start to his Bayern career, a problematic loan stint in the Premier League, and the coming months ahead to be spent sharpening his skill-set, Sanches is in a unique position. Despite the fact that he has given the club several reasons not to believe in him, the 21-year-old is being given the chance to prove his mettle.

To make this a success, Sanches will first have to show he can play, perform, and operate like a professional on daily basis while training alongside the world’s best players. If he can do that, then just maybe Kovač might grant him the playing time he needs to show where he rates against top-flight competition.

Sanches certainly holds the keys for how he will navigate this journey, but it is time for him to prove he can reach his destination without any more stalling.


Will a year in Niko Kovač’s training ground incubator get Renato Sanches where he needs to be?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Yes - Give the kid time to develop at his own pace.
    (458 votes)
  • 6%
    No - We’ve seen about as much as we need to, so how much can we sell him for?
    (42 votes)
  • 7%
    Why are we coddling a player that hasn’t shown much of anything as of yet and is scraping the bottom of the roster?
    (48 votes)
  • 8%
    I read the word incubator and just pictured Niko Kovač wearing a robe and eating Fage yogurt like Erlich Bachman from Silicon Valley.
    (54 votes)
602 votes total Vote Now

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