Renato Sanches is the one that got away, as far as Manchester United fans are concerned.
United scouted the Portugal teenager for the best part of a year and it was widely assumed that he would move to Old Trafford following the domestic season conclusion in May. However, as a deal looked all but done, Bayern Munich made the surprise announcement that they had secured the signature of the highly regarded 18-year-old.
While Sanches tears it up in France, helping Portugal into the European Championship semi-finals, a bizarre storm is brewing, with his age at the the centre.
The Benfica academy player’s official date of birth is August 18, 1997, however now this has been called into question by Portuguese rivals Sporting Lisbon’s president Bruno de Carvalho.
According to a local Portuguese newspaper Jornal de Noticias (via Yahoo Sports), while Sanches’ birth date is the 18th of August 1997, his actual birth was not registered until August 22, 2002, a full five years later.
This discrepancy has led to sports commentators rowing in behind Sporting and questioning if there is in fact something underhanded going on. According to investigations by the Portuguese newspaper, Sanches’ father left his mother when he was five months old and only returned in 2002 to deal with the incomplete birth registration forms.
Sanches’ stature and physical style of play has lent itself to the far-fetched notion from some that he is actually older than he says. Compared to the likes of Netherlands stars Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids in his bullish style of play, detractors claim that he cannot possibly be only 18 and that the confusion around his birth registration only proves that something is not right.
Officially, however, Sanches is 18. The official documents say so and in truth, the way he puts himself around the field would certainly suggest it’s just the exuberance of youth.
If nothing else, it only adds to the aura around a young man marked for greatness.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena