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Niko Kovac consoles frustrated Renato Sanches

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Bayern Munich’s head coach was spotted trying to lift the spirits of his protégé, Renato Sanches, who has found minutes hard to come by in a tight title race.

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 21: Renato Sanches of FC Bayern Muenchen arrives for a training session at the club's Saebener Strasse training ground on February 21, 2019 in Munich, Germany.
Renato Sanches arrives for a training session at Säbener Strasse, February 21, 2019.
Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern

Bild’s eagle-eyed reporters saw an interesting scene unfold at Tuesday afternoon’s training session at Säbener Strasse. After the reserves’ training session, head coach Niko Kovac was seen talking at length to his protégé, 21-year-old Portuguese star, Renato Sanches. While Sanches seemed exasperated, Kovac appeared to be calming him down and encouraging him.

Although Bild did not elaborate on the context of his interview, Kovac apparently explained his impromptu conversation with Sanches afterward. Kovac said,

Renato is not the happiest at the moment because he’s not playing much. But I told him that he should keep on going. He’s training well, is diligent and friendly.

Bayern Munich waved away all offers for Sanches last summer, including interest from Paris Saint-Germain, who also came calling again in January. But, although Sanches saw the pitch fairly regularly during the Hinrunde, highlighted by an epic Champions League homecoming against SL Benfica in September.

But since December 2018, opportunity for Sanches has dried up. He played 11 minutes in Bayern’s 3:1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen and on Tuesday a mere 2 minutes at the end of Bayern’s away match against Liverpool.

The reason is fairly obvious: Kovac has Bayern fighting on three fronts and simply cannot afford to give more minutes to reserve players. Kovac himself said as much,

It would be much easier if we had a lead by a few points. So we have to fight! That’s not simple for me. I’m trying to give everyone his playing time.

With no margin for error, the players on the margins of the starting lineup suffer the most. Despite Kovac’s wish to develop Sanches into a star, the coach can seldom risk sitting his starters.