One of the most shocking transfer stories from last summer was that of Renato Sanches. The former Benfica academy graduate stunned the footballing world when a move was all but confirmed with Manchester United, he instead signed for Bayern Munich.
The move shocked and angered United fans, with some even calling for the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to step down. During a summer of upheaval that saw Louis van Gaal sacked and José Mourinho take over, focus on player recruitment took a hit. Van Gaal’s reluctance to commit to a deal for Sanches saw Bayern swoop for the teenager in a €35 million deal while the Manchester club hesitated.
It wasn’t until the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the Paul Pogba, that fans finally started to let the debacle slide into memory.
Now, six months on since United missed out on the Portugal international, it appears that the Premier League club might well have dodged a bullet. Despite featuring for Portugal in their European Championship title winning campaign in the summer, Sanches has been something of a let down in the Bundesliga so far this season.
Comparing him to his team-mates, Sanches has, according to Whoscored.com, the second lowest rating in the first team (6.34). In the Bundesliga, the 19-year-old has made four starts and featured as a substitute an additional four times, while in the Champions League he has made five appearances, two as a starter.
In a total of 13 appearances, he has yet to either score or provide an assist in either the domestic or European leagues. He has however been issued three yellow cards in the 527 minutes of football he has enjoyed this term. This makes him one of the worst offenders in the squad.
When compared to fellow central midfielders in the side, things look even worse. Playing alongside Xavi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal, Sanches finds himself lagging behind. Only Manuel Neuer, Bayern’s goal keeper, has featured more than Alcantara this season, with the Spaniard contributing two goals and two assists so far. Alonso has also chipped in with two goals, while Vidal has provided one.
As a teenager, there is still a lot for the Portuguese to learn. Though strong and fast, raw skill should develop into finesse over time. However, at the end of the day, there is nothing that quite beats experience.
By contrast, last season Manchester United’s own teenage signing Anthony Martial fared far differently. In his first season at Old Trafford, Martial was the squad’s second ranked player (whoscored.com), scoring 11 Premier League goals, adding an additional three assists and taking home three man of the match awards.
Compared to his own peers up front at United, The Frenchman ranked ahead of the likes of Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata in the position of attacking midfielder/forward.
At the end of the day, there is plenty of time for Renato Sanches to grow and succeed. However based on the season he is having to date and with the player landscape at United under Mourinho, you have to wonder if the manager’s young compatriot would have stood even half a chance.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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