Many players are dubbed the next ‘wonderkid’, but few back it up. Renato Sanches’ exciting performances at Euro 16 showed why the biggest clubs in the world were prepared to gamble €63 million on an 18-year-old with just 24 first team appearances to his name. Regular PDP contributor Dan Wright reviews Sanches’ tournament and looks ahead to his time in Germany.
Born in Lisbon to a father from São Tomé and Príncipe and a mother from Cape Verde, Renato Sanches grew up in the impoverished neighbourhood of Musgueira. Here in one of the most problematic areas of the city Sanches started his footballing journey, training with local team Aguias de Musgueira – The Eagles of Musgueira.

The energetic youngster was quickly identified by Benfica and signed with the club aged 11. He progressed through the academy at Benfica and made his debut for the ‘B’ side in October 2014 aged just 16. The midfielder remained with the B side for the start of the 2015­­-16 season, appearing in the UEFA Youth League, but it wasn’t long before he was training with the senior group. Cameo appearances against Tondela and Boavista preceeded a Champions League debut in a 2-2 draw against Astana. Another milestone came on 4th December, when in his full debut at Estádio da Luz he scored from 35 yards in a 3-0 win over Académica. By the end of the season he had helped his team secure a third title in a row, won the League Cup and played for Portugal. In the match before Sanches’ club debut, Benfica lost 3-0 at home to the leaders Sporting and were sixth, eight points behind their city rivals. Benfica went on to win 14 out of 16 games with Sanches in the line-up. Benfica knew they had a top talent on their hands and rewarded the youngster with an improved contract which tied him to the Portuguese giants until 2021.

In May 2016, it was reported that Europe’s elite clubs were competing to prise him away from life in the Primeira Liga. With Sanches represented by Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes, who also represents Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho, many predicted a move to Manchester United. Instead, he opted for Bayern…


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Dan Wright
Dan Wright
Dan Wright is a UEFA A licensed academy coach & blogger with experience working at grassroots level through to professional academies in the UK & Africa.
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