For the large majority of his tenure at Bayern Munich, the future of Renato Sanches has been “unclear” at best. He came to Germany as a heralded a prospect and a Golden Boy winner, but his actual performance in Bavaria has been less-than-award-worthy.
Battling through struggles on the field and some maturity issues off of it, Sanches has never settled in and developed as the club thought he would. From his inconsistent early days at Bayern to the absolute abomination of a loan stint with Swansea City, to his current standing as the sixth midfield option behind Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller, Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, and Javi Martinez, things just have not worked out for the soon-to-be 22-year-old.
This season, however, was supposed to be the dawn of a new day for Sanches. With a more confident and quality set of performances in the preseason, many were hoping that Sanches had finally made the leap. But alas, a post-game outburst on match day 1 of the Bundesliga season has Sanches right back where he was at the end of last season: wanting to get the hell out of Bavaria.
Despite the assurances of Niko Kovac and work with Hansi Flick, Sanches just has not gotten what he ultimately needs: playing time. And if Bayern cannot — or will not — give a young player like Sanches time on the pitch, then it would be best for everyone if the club sold him off.
The cycle of frustration
Just under a month ago, Sanches declared that he still saw himself playing an “important role” for Bayern and committed to staying with the club. Apparently, Sanches now feels like his conversations with the club were all for naught and that he needs to make a change.
In March, Sanches stated that he was not happy in Munich and, by the end of last season, Sanches infamously declared, “Thank God just 45 more minutes of Bayern Munich!” after a friendly against SpVgg Lindau.
It was at that point that Bayern finally failed the player. Prior to that, Sanches was just another player who could not beat out those ahead of him on the depth chart. But then, the reality of where his place was on the roster sunk in and he wanted to leave.
Sanches was checked out mentally, ready to move on, and the Bavarians had no starting position to offer him, because he had not — and still has not — earned one. So why keep him around?
Sanches was pretty clear about his feelings on what he thought was best for him in April:
I don’t know. We have to wait and see. The season lasts only one more week. Anything is possible. But as I said a few months ago, I want to play more. I’m a young player. When you’re young and don’t play much, you feel bad. I love soccer and simply want to be used more. I don’t have to talk about my situation with him every day. Of course he knows how I feel. But he makes the decisions and I respect that. At the end of the season, though, it’s too late to get more playing time. Still, I’m concentrating on my job. Today I had the chance to play, and that worked out really well.
Bayern needed to let him go; instead it chose to try one more time to make Sanches its great reclamation project. So far, that’s not working out.
Sanches should absorb some of the fault with this as well
The blame for this situation does not fall squarely on the shoulders of Bayern Munich for their inability to assess what was best for the player. Sanches has been extremely inconsistent on the pitch, struggling with bouts of indecision, forcing plays, and sometimes exhibiting selfish tendencies. In addition, he bombed on what could have been a tremendous growing experience with Swansea City, sulked throughout last season, and used the early part of the off-season to complain about his standing on the team.
Even if Bayern can facilitate a deal for Sanches, this likely won’t be the last time a young midfielder is going to get frustrated. With three midfield slots in just about every formation Kovac has rolled out, either Leon Goretzka or Corentin Tolisso will find himself on the bench most games. For two players — both better than Sanches — who could be “every game starters” at a lot of good clubs to sit happily on the bench for an extended period behind Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller, or even Javi Martinez, that might be a stretch.
Now that Mickaël Cuisance is in the mix and Philippe Coutinho is also on the way, the midfield might actually be too deep, even if the plan for Coutinho is to slot him in as a winger, or Cuisance heads to Bayern II for a spell.
Where to go from here
Simply put, Bayern Munich needs to sell Sanches to a club where he can play and make strides in his development. The player simply does not want to be with Bayern any longer. Why keep him around to sulk on the bench?
As we have recently heard, Lazio was interested in Sanches, while Fenerbahce and Paris Saint-Germain have also expressed interest over the past eight months. Heck, even the loan Bayern was considering last spring would have been better than how this is playing out.
Even a dunce like me knew this situation was going to come to a head months ago. Last April I wrote the following and I would not change a word today:
At some point soon, Bayern will have to address how it can justify keeping a 21-year-old with potential on the bench for yet another season. Despite his ability, Sanches is simply a victim of the circumstance that he is surrounded by better teammates. He is at a point where he needs to play regularly for the sake of his own development.
It is just time to let this wild horse run free in the pasture of some other club. Sanches needs to be with a team where he can develop on the pitch and start to make his game evolve into that of a top-level midfielder.
If he makes it, then great! We’ll all be happy for him with no regrets. And if he doesn’t? Then hopefully Sanches can start to mature enough to own his role in how all of this played out.