Profile of reported Manchester United target Renato Sanches of Benfica
Last Updated: 16/02/16 11:10pm
Are Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal looking to improve their options in midfield by signing an 18-year-old from Benfica?
Renato Sanches has risen through the youth ranks at Benfica to become a regular starter for the Portuguese champions, and aged just 18, he's considered to have great potential.
According to Tuesday's Daily Express, three big English clubs are scouting the midfielder as a potential signing for the summer transfer window.
But who exactly is Sanches? We take a look at the highly-rated individual from Portugal...
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 the club's board to give the midfielder a new contract, which he signed after the international break in November. The deal keeps him at the club until 2021 with a release clause of €45m (£35m) apparently in place.
Ever since his contract extension, Sanches' stock has 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 17 appearances so far this season, Sanches has scored twice. One a long-range strike against Academica and the other was a sole 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 the Benfica midfield, with his influence earning him a regular starting role.
The 18-year-old has been a standout on the pitch, with his braided hair also drawing comparisons to legendary Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids. His profile may suit Manchester United and Arsenal if they wish to add a greater layer of physicality to their midfield.
How did he play on Tuesday?
Sanches started in Benfica's 1-0 Champions League win against Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday night, and he put in a strong performance. He was tasked to mark arguably Zenit's star man Hulk for most of the night and did well to keep the Brazilian relatively quiet.
Sanches 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
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."