When Bayern Munich splurged in the 2016 transfer window for SL Benfica wonderkid Renato Sanches, both parties hoped it would go differently. The €35m transfer splash was meant to shore up the future of the Bavarian midfield, but Sanches endured a difficult and injury-plagued spell before departing for Lille OSC on a permanent sale in 2020.
For Sanches, in reflection, it was the right move at the wrong time.
“I chose Bayern because they really wanted me. When a club like that wants you, it’s impossible to say no,” Sanches told Views magazine (via Sport Bild). “The beginning was difficult. I’m going there alone, I was 18 years old and thought I was ready to be alone and up for the challenge. But now I know it wasn’t me. That made me grow. I made the right choice with Bayern, but it was too early.”
The transition to Munich to play for the Rekordmeister is a tough adjustment even for some of the game’s biggest and most established stars — just as ex-Liverpool winger Sadio Mané, for example. The glare of the lights is a little brighter, the focus of the media a little harsher, in a landscape where it’s all Bayern, all the time as far as scrutiny.
“I didn’t expect to go through what I went through, for example an injury in the first training session,” Sanches explained. “I was lonely, I was hurt and it’s not good mentally, especially when you’re young. You may think that you don’t feel the pressure and that you’re fine, but that’s not the case. If you feel the pressure, you will not perform. In that moment, I realized that happiness affects my level of play.”
After three seasons at Lille, though, Sanches has found his footing again — and helped his club win a Ligue 1 title in the process! Now at PSG, Sanches wasn’t selected in Portugal’s 26-man squad for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup — but at least this time, he’s more ready to take on the challenges of being at a high-profile, perennially dominant club.
And in February, he’ll get the chance to meet his old club and his Bayern former teammates again — on the Champions League stage, under maybe the brightest lights of them all.