Renato Sanches: the story of wonderkid's demise
Doomed from the Beginning?
His debut at Swansea after loan from Bayern did not go to plan. Sanches made two horrible passing errors inside the first five minutes, giving away possession with square balls in central areas. He was substituted on 69 minutes after an unconvincing display.
"It set the tone for bad things," was the Swansea insider's opinion. "Looking back on it, he should probably have been brought on [as] a substitute instead to inject life to the game late on and ease him into the Premier League."
The Boy from Benfica
His early days in the game were more promising than that Swansea debut. Born and raised in Lisbon, Sanches showed natural talent and was signed up to Benfica's youth system by the age of 10.
"He had a great Under-17 European Championship and made his debut for Benfica's B team at the age of 17. He played almost 30 games with the B team in 2014/15, but no one expected that, a year later, he would be an essential player in the conquest of the Portuguese League for Benfica's main team.
Sanches became a mainstay of the side, featuring in 47 matches—including six in the UEFA Champions League—as Benfica won Liga Nos. Europe's top clubs were paying attention, and Sanches completed a €35 million (£27.5 million) transfer to Bayern Munich.
Becoming Europe's Golden Boy
At Euro 2016 a tremendous goal against Poland in the quarter-finals cemented his status as a rising superstar, and he was later named the tournament's best young player. Portugal won the competition, against the odds, and then it was time to take his career to the next level, as Sanches headed off to Munich—without too much idea of what to expect.
When he was given opportunities, it seemed he was trying too hard. He would look for the more difficult pass, desperate to shine and feel at home among the stars who surrounded him. But with every pass that went astray, his confidence dipped.
By the end of that first season, the German club decided it would be best to let him leave on loan. But Sanches had not anticipated he would rock up in a coastal city in Wales he had barely heard of.
"I want to regain my confidence, to be happy again as a player," Sanches said on his first day at Swansea, trying to take an optimistic stance. The truth is he only joined the club because of then-manager Clement, with whom he had worked briefly at Bayern.
He knew little about the club, the city and even the country. When he joined Bayern a year previously, he had also been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, so to arrive in the Premier League on a yearlong loan with Swansea was somewhat strange. Clement left the club in December and admitted in an interview with Henry Winter of The Times that the player seemed broken from the offset.
Swansea were deep in a relegation scrap, and Carvalhal's arrival could have been a perfect pick-me-up for Sanches, as well as the club. With a coach from his country coming in, many thought it would get the best from Sanches. It was not to be. Swansea's results have turned around, but the midfielder remains in a bad place.
A hamstring issue, picked up in an FA Cup match against Wolverhampton Wanderers, means he has been limited to just two full matches since his compatriot took charge.
Time for a Rebuild
Bayern still hope he will become a top player and want him to return in the summer. They remain hopeful some positives will surface from his time in the Premier League. But Sanches must show a strong state of mind and even stronger determination to succeed and get back on track.
It could be that another loan spell is on the cards before he makes the grade at Bayern, but Sanches cannot be discounted and thrown on the scrapheap just yet. He had a tough start to life in Lisbon and knows what it takes to come through hard times.