Should you follow any European football outside of the ‘top five’ leagues, then you likely heard of Renato Sanches as far back as 2015. The youngster blew onto the scene with Benfica, scoring a ridiculous goal from closer to the half-way line than the 18-yard line, early into his Benfica career. After just a season of utter dominance and already looking far too good for the Liga NOS, Sanches went to Euro 2016 with Portugal.
Emerging as a winner and as the young player of the tournament, his unique blend of poise, strength, balance, vision and technical prowess all made him a standout candidate. In the run-up to the final, the exceptional Sanches immediately earned plaudits, and European giants began to circle. His move to FC Bayern became public soon after.
A dreadful opening period to his Bayern career- with a ‘zero season’ bringing no goals or assists in year one – seen him get shipped out on loan to Swansea City. The hope was that he could recover some of his zest under ex-Bayern assistant Paul Clement. This did not work, though.
Under Niko Kovac, though, the Portuguese looks reborn. A stunning goal against Benfica in the UEFA Champions League – earning a standing ovation from his old team – immediately showed he looked more settled.
Further impressive Bundesliga displays so far this season, then has Portuguese fans sighing with relief. This generational talent looked finished before he was in his 20s: now, that looks set to change.