Renato Sanches: Profile of Portugal's young star and Bayern's new signing
Last Updated: 03/06/16 7:18am
Ahead of England's friendly against Portugal, we profile the exciting 18-year-old midfielder Renato Sanches.
Sanches had reportedly been linked with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in spring before a move to Bayern Munich last month.
Who exactly is the player who rose through the youth ranks at Benfica to become a regular starter for the Portuguese champions?
With a chance for England fans to see Sanches in action at Wembley, we take a look at the youngster...
Name: Renato Sanches
Place of birth: Lisbon, Portugal
Position: Central midfielder
Sanches is of Cape Verdean origin, but was born and raised in Lisbon. He joined Benfica's prestigious academy aged nine and was able to work his way up to start for Benfica's B team in October 2014 after turning 17 two months before.
After just one year with the club in the Portuguese second division, Sanches was called up to the senior squad in 2016, initially just for training purposes. However, on October 30 last year, he made his senior debut as a late substitute against Tondela.
Sanches' rapid progress encouraged Benfica to hand him a new six-year deal in November, a contract that contained a release clause which would be triggered by an offer of £35m (€45m) - Bayern have paid an initial fee of £27.5m (€35m) for the midfielder.
Ever since that contract extension, Sanches' stock continued to rise. On November 25, he earned his first start in a 2-2 draw with Astana in the Champions League group stages, playing the full 90 minutes. Then just a week later, he made his first league start in an away win against Braga.
In his 24 league appearances in 2015/16, Sanches scored twice; one a long-range strike against Academica and the other was a 74th-minute winner against Vitoria Guimaraes.
Style of play
Sanches is predominantly a box-to-box midfielder known for his strength, passing ability and composure on the ball. He's a player who likes to try and help dictate the tempo in midfield, with his influence having earned him a regular starting role for Benfica last season.
The 18-year-old has been a standout on the pitch, with his braided hair also drawing comparisons to legendary Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids.
Catching the eye
Sanches started in Benfica's 1-0 Champions League round-of-16 first-leg win against Zenit St Petersburg in February, putting in a strong performance. He was tasked with marking Zenit's star man Hulk for most of the night and did well to keep the Brazilian relatively quiet.
Sanches also led Benfica for recoveries and ranked only behind Andreas Samaris for accurate forward passes, highlighting his composure on the ball and good positioning.
What he says
"I know I still have to develop. I'm 18. Over time, and with the help of my colleagues, I will improve."
"Scoring [his first senior goal] was an unforgettable moment. It is like a dream. I didn't know what to do. I never thought I would be playing here at 18. It's a childhood dream to play at Estadio da Luz."
What they say
He has a strong shot and good vision for someone in his position.
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone
"Renato Sanches is a dynamic, technically-gifted midfielder who is strong in the tackle and will strengthen our squad," said Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after his club had signed Sanches.
"He's by far and away one of the best young players in Europe," said outgoing Bayern boss Pep Guardiola after facing Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals. "He's got a lot of quality and personality, and he runs a lot. He's got a great future ahead of him."
Benfica coach Rui Vitoria after Sanches' first home start and first Benfica goal: "Renato was wonderful. A first start at Estadio da Luz for a young man is every player's dream. It was a great [full home] debut. Surely he will not forget this performance."
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone before their match against Benfica in December: "He has a strong shot and good vision for someone in his position. It's always nice to see good young players."