A European Championship winner, recipient of the Golden Boy Award and the subject of a €35 million transfer from his boyhood club to one of the continent’s giants, and all at the tender age of 18. That was a nice way for Renato Sanches to spend his 2016.

Unfortunately, 2017 hasn’t quite gone as well for the young Portuguese starlet. Just eight starts this term is threatening to turn his dream move sour, and as we know young players need game-time to continue their upward trajectory.

With Bayern Munich’s settled side widely expected to coast to the title and Carlo Ancelotti clearly not fancying the 19-year-old – for the time being at least – the question, sadly, has to be asked: what next for Renato Sanches?

The Waiting Game

“Every player wants to play, that’s completely normal. The solution is not to give up but to continue working, all the while knowing that my moment will arrive,” Sanches said in an interview with "A Bola" earlier in the year. “I have faith in my efforts and for that reason I don’t feel down. Only eleven can play so I will work until my time comes. I knew this was going to be hard and it’s all part of integrating here.”

Sanches’ words show a certain level of maturity and a willingness to look at the bigger picture, and that bodes well for a player locked into a contract with the German club until 2021.

Patience will be essential, as the opportunities – certainly from next season onwards – should present themselves readily if Sanches continues to put in the hard yards. Xabi Alonso and Phillip Lahm have already announced their retirements at the end of the season, while Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, both 33, aren’t going to go on forever.

New faces will be required to step up to the plate, and this passing of the baton is almost a symbolic gesture: the likes of Thiago Alcântara, Douglas Costa and Joshua Kimmich will be expected to make their mark, while there will surely be more chances for Sanches either on the flanks or in his preferred central role. He simply has to take any opportunities he gets.

Lothar backing

When you need a bit of support at a new club, when the detractors doubting your ability are circling, you might as well get a club legend on board. Happily for Renato, he can call upon the backing of a man who played more than 300 times for Bayern Munich.

Lothar Matthaus wrote in his Sport Bild column: “He's been through a lot in 2016: a hugely unexpected success at Euro 2016 and a big-money move to a new country. In the first half of the season, he wasn’t the player I know. He lacked self-confidence and enjoyed little game time.

“That will change in the second half of the season. He’ll get more games because of rotation and show the qualities in the number eight position that make him special: strong tackling, determination and goal-scoring ability. I’m a Sanches fan.”

So Matthaus is on side, and that stands Sanches in very good stead. After all, the former World Cup winner knows a thing or two about cultured footballers.

To the future

So really the future is in Renato’s hands. He can ride out the rest of the season, learn more about what it takes to play in a side expected to win silverware and go deep into the Champions League, and use the experience next season when he will be required to make a more forceful contribution in the absence of Alonso and Lahm.

When Bayern signed him it was always with one eye on the future – regardless of how advanced his development has been already, so expect the second half of 2017 to be the time when Sanches shows just why he is so highly rated by the great and good of the beautiful game.

By Matthew Harris

 

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People in this conversation

  • Guest - DL

    I'll tell you this much, he'd be getting game time at Man U. Why he or his agent thought signing at a club with a million world-class midfielders would be a good idea is beyond me.

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  • Guest - IC

    Well he's been getting opporunities off the bench as well and he's still young so there's plenty of time for him to make his mark. If Bayern don't see a regular place for him in he lineup next season with the departure of Alonso, I would be all for him making a loan move somewhere where he can play regular minutes as a starter. He's in that crucial period of his development where regular minutes as a starter in a string league can make a world of difference.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    I think people need to be patient with Renato Sanches. Firstly he's not even 20 years old yet, secondly he's moved to a new country with a complete different culture and language and it will obviously take a youngster like him a while to settle in, thirdly the style of football in the bundesliga couldn't be more different from the Portuguese league, and above all he's joined Bayern, a top 3 European club at the moment, packed with talent in the CM area (including in my opinion the best allround CM in the world at the moment, Arturo Vidal).

    He was never going to just walk into the first team of a giant club like Bayern Munich, the kid had one season (and not even a full season at that) of first team experience before joining them, don't forget! He has to be patient and likewise the club have to be patient with him as he's clearly still settling into a whole new experience. But what is certain is they have a serious talent on their hands, and this is precisely why they paid the money they did for him. I have found it amusing to read/hear various comments this season (clearly from Benfica-hating people) that he is a huge flop, just because he isn't a titular at Bayern in his first season there. Yeah what a flop he was at the Euros last summer, right? And for Benfica in the champions league last season too, right? Lol!!!

    The truth is that, in terms of potential and considering his age, he is by far the most talented Portuguese CM in my opinion, and that's saying a lot because we have a lot of talent in CM at the moment. Perhaps the best option for him and Bayern next season would be to loan him out for the season to get regular playing time. I would love to see him back at SLB for another season, but I don't see that happening!!! Perhaps a loan to another Bundesliga team would be the best option for him. In any case, he has all the credentials to become one of the very best CMs in the world, and I do think Germany is a good place for him to develop as their football culture places a lot of value on youth development.

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  • Guest - George

    For Pete's sake - some people are just ridiculous. We're talking about a soon to be 20 year old young man at Bayern Munich here, not a 26 year old somewhere else. Give the guy some time to get acclimated! Not only is Bayern a world-class team, I would argue it's the only team in the world he can't break into on a regular basis. If he was at Real or Barca, with those current midfields, don't you think he'd get more time? I sure do. That should tell you all you need to know about his predicament. Give it time, this will change. It already is with the retirement announcements.

    It takes most players a full season to get used to new environments - cultures, languages, stadiums, teammates, coaches, etc., why anyone is already giving up on Renato is beyond me...

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  • Guest - Hélder

    Hopefully Bayern will wrap up the league early and give Sanches some starts. It will prepare Sanches for the Confederations Cup and help Ancelotti on how best to play him next season when players retire or move away from the club. People have to keep in mind he signed at 18 before the EUROs started, in fact while the Portuguese league was still going on. He is 19 now and will break in to the starting eleven, sooner rather then later. Look back 13 years ago with Ronaldo when he first join Man Utd, he wasn't starting he was given opportunities as the season progressed, and he was filling Beckhams spot which led to him having slightly more opportunities during his first season. Given Xavi Alonso is retiring Renato will break in to the starting eleven next year.

    from New York, NY, USA
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