2017 22under22 Countdown – #15: Renato Sanches

“”I have not seen many midfielders who have the same power Renato Sanches has.”
– Carlo Ancelotti


Date of Birth: August 18th, 1997 (19 years old)
Nationality: Portuguese
Position: Central Midfielder
Club Appearances: 73 (5 goals)
International Appearances: 12 (1 goal)
EiF Ability Rating: 63

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*


Next up on our 22under22 list is second-time entrant Renato Sanches (#17 last year). After completing a big-money move to Bayern Munich this past summer, however, the energetic midfielder has struggled to get consistent playing time for the Bavarian giants. Although this adjustment period has been massively disappointing for fans of the young Portuguese, Sanches showed just how good he can be when he was at the heart of the Benfica midfield last season. His drive, technique and strong tackling saw him become an integral part of the team en route to a domestic title. As seen in his performance against his current club Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League last year, he is quite simply the real deal – he battled admirably against some of the best midfielders in Europe and Bayern fans will be eager to see similar performances in the Bayern shirt.

Renato Sanches joined the Benfica academy as an 8-year-old and grew up playing for all levels of the club before breaking through to the first team last season. He was always highly regarded in the Benfica youth set-up, but following some impressive performances for the youth teams he finally got his chance in the senior side. He made his debut on October 30th, 2015, and quickly became a mainstay in the starting lineup. Following a highly successful season, Renato Sanches was sold to Bayern Munich for an astounding initial fee of €35 million (with an extra €45 million depending on objectives). Bayern were clearly very impressed by the youngster’s brilliant season, and Die Roten decided completed the deal to bring Sanches to the Allianz Arena in early May of 2016. This came before his highly impressive tournament at the European Championship, in which Portugal lifted the trophy after beating France in the final and Sanches was crowned the Young Player of the Tournament.


Strengths


Due to the small amount of playing time Renato Sanches has enjoyed for Bayern so far (only 5 starts in the league this season), most of his strengths have not truly been showcased this season. The young Portuguese star is the type of player that could aptly be described as an engine due to his tremendous energy and industry in the middle of the park. He is a box-to-box midfielder who is capable of scoring and driving his team into the final third, but is also likely to put in a hard tackle on defense. Sanches’ play style is highly similar to that of his teammate Arturo Vidal, who has earned plaudits for years for his energy, bravery, and aggressive physicality. Sanches provides the same type of dynamism and energy as Vidal, and the prospect of seeing them on the field together is a truly scary thought for any opposition.

SanchesRenato Sanches hurdling a Luka Modric tackle in Euro Cup Round of 16 action (Photo: Goal)

He might not be the player that will make a 50 yard pass across the field to his team’s striker, but Sanches is the type of midfielder every team would love to have to complement their creative players. The impact he made for Portugal and Benfica last season earned him the prestigious European Golden Boy award (past recipients include Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba, Sergio Aguero, Cesc Fabregas, and many more incredible talents). Renato Sanches has all the makings of a world-class center midfielder with his pace, technique and ability to recover the ball quickly. Just like any other young player, however, he still has some shortcomings he has to address before he can fulfill his potential…


Weaknesses


Renato Sanches’ primary weakness is his technical ability and vision in the attacking third. Despite his incredible work rate and ability to drive attacks forward, Sanches at times lacks the quality to be an effective central player in the final third. Although he makes up for it with the rest of his game (think N’Golo Kanté), Sanches must become more refined going forward if he hopes to get playing time for Bayern Munich, typically a highly possession-oriented team). If he is able to work on this part of his game, Sanches will truly be on his way to becoming a world-class player.

Renato Sanches lifting the Primeira Liga trophy at the age of just 18 (Photo: Daily Mail)

Furthermore, because of his immense physical attributes, he occasionally tends to get a bit lazy on the ball by assuming he can simply outrun other midfielders. He must quickly become aware he can’t get always get away with this at the top level, especially now that he has made the jump to the Bundesliga. If he can develop a better killer pass as well as improve his decision-making in and around the box, Renato Sanches should develop into the player everyone thinks he is capable of becoming.


Renato Sanches was widely tipped as one of world football’s next breakout stars and all that hype was promptly followed up; his 2015/16 campaign with Benfica was simply spectacular and his contributions to Portugal’s success at the European Championships put his raw potential on display to the world. It is no surprise Bayern snapped him up so quickly. Unfortunately for Sanches, however, this season has saw his rapid rise stagnate slightly as the star-studded Bayern squad has proven a bit more difficult to break into than Benfica’s. It might just be his first season at Bayern, but Renato knows next season has to change – a loan might be ideal if playing time continues to be an issue. Whatever happens next, Renato Sanches has quite the bright future ahead.

Previous: #16, America’s 18-year-old prodigy, Christian Pulisic

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