A once-promising phenom, Renato Sanches has quickly played himself out of favor at Bayern Munich. After bursting onto the scene a mere two years ago, few in the football world still have Sanches on their radar. Can the youngster save his career, or will he be yet another example of “too much too soon?”
Fall from grace
Life since the earlier days at Benfica, and of course the 2016 UEFA Euro, have not been kind to Renato Sanches. The young Portuguese midfielder made quite the name for himself in the 2015/16 season while at Benfica. Renato Sanches made himself an integral piece in Benfica’s squad and was attracting major suitors across Europe. Bayern Munich, in vintage fashion, made hush work of of handling all the pre-signature negotiations during the season. As a result, the club promptly secured the youngster in the early days of the transfer window.
The heaps of praise would not stop there for Sanches, however. In fact, at that point they hadn’t even reached their peak. Renato Sanches made headlines when securing his spot in the ranks of Portugal’s final senior squad for the 2016 UEFA Euro in France. At just 18 years of age, Sanches became the youngest Portuguese to play in an international tournament. That summer, he also proved to be a vital cog in the Portuguese midfield. He often was responsible for driving the rest of the team’s offensive play. This was crucial as Portugal faced a number of nail-biting extra-time victories.
As such, his massive efforts returned massive rewards. In addition to being the youngest Portuguese to play in an international tournament, he became the youngest player to win a Euro final at the expense of the host country in that 1-0 victory. At this point, everything pointed for Renato Sanches to be a steal of a signing for Bayern Munich, and for him to be an incredible success. Expectations were obviously at an all-time high for the player.
However, as of yet, things have looked quite poor for the young Portuguese. Since then, he was far from able to make a name for himself among the notoriously packed Bayern Munich midfield. He was unable to manage establishing himself in Bundesliga games or otherwise. Under Carlo Ancelotti he was unable to earn regular spots in the starting XI, and frankly didn’t impress when he featured as a substitute.
Fresh start under Niko Kovač
Unfortunately for Renato Sanches, his few appearances for Bayern Munich didn’t show the player the club initially was attracted to. His performances were marred by losing possession of the ball and giving way to hopeless attempted shots from far distances. This string of disappointments ultimately led to his loan away to Swansea City in the Premier League. While loan spells of this nature aren’t typically positive signs, things were still hopeful with Carlo Ancelotti’s former assistant at Swansea, who was familiar with Sanches.
However, even this seemed to high a hill to climb for the youngster. Confidence issues appeared to be plaguing his development, and eventual managerial changes didn’t help the situation. As expected, this succession of hardships resulted in Renato Sanches missing out on Portugal’s final squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Through all of this, Bayern Munich have refused to give up on Sanches. The player has made a return to Bavaria and looks to be given another chance with the reigning German champions.
Given the circumstances, the timing could not be better for the player. While he admittedly missed out on being under the guiding hand of Jupp Heynckes, Sanches has come back in time to be under the training of Croatian manager Niko Kovač, who has shown impressive signs as he led Eintracht Frankfurt to an impressive run and an astounding upset at the expense of Bayern Munich to win last season’s DFB Pokal.
Could this prove to be the remedy that Renato Sanches has needed? The timing sure seems in the youngster’s favor. The relatively underdog manager is also looking to make a name for himself at his first job managing an elite European club and has a lot of pieces to work with. This is especially the case in the midfield arena.
How could Renato’s talents be complemented in midfield?
There are a couple of areas in which Renato Sanches could excel in Bayern Munich’s midfield. The first of which, is as a box-to-box central-midfielder. One of Sanches’ assets is his energy and drive in the middle of the park. This play style could also be attributed to his young age allowing him to bomb up and down the field with ease.
If paired with a more traditional and creative central-midfielder to work with, say Thiago, then both players could potentially benefit from the other’s play. Thiago could be allowed more of the creative and distributive freedom in the center of the pitch. The Spaniard could spray lethal passes across the field to help string together attacking plays. Meanwhile, Sanches could provide the energetic muscle work. As long as he works on his defensive game, he can track back to thwart counter attacks. In addition, he can power forward to be an offensive outlet to drive the team’s attack.
The other option is to have Sanches play as an outright central-attacking midfielder sitting behind the forward. The Portuguese already has a knack towards contributing to the offensive side of plays. Therefore, this could allow for a dynamic relationship with Thiago in a midfield partnership, as he will be one of the key players feeding him passes. However, this could also prove to create a dynamic relationship with the forward and potentially lead to goal-scoring chances for both players.
None of this will come easy, though. Since the arrival of Sanches, Bayern Munich have made more additions to the midfield. Renato Sanches will have his work cut out for him. Corentin Tolisso and Leon Goretzka, in addition to the rest of Bayern’s elite midfield, are waiting in the ranks.