‘One of the best young players in Europe’
Bayern fans are already acquainted with the club's new signing, and not only due to his signature dreadlocks: Renato Sanches was a commanding central midfield presence for Champions League quarter-final opponents Benfica with his hard tackling and tireless running. The 18-year-old, whose full name is Renato Júnior Luz Sanches, will play for Bayern as of the new season.
"He's far and away one of the best young players in Europe. He has abundant quality and character and covers a huge amount of ground. He has a great future ahead of him," Pep Guardiola enthused in statements at the time of the Champions League clash. Practically every leading European club has been linked with Renato Sanches, who is frequently compared with former Dutch stalwart Edgar Davids. Benfica coach Rui Vitoria is an admirer: "He has a glorious career ahead of him."
Signed for Benfica as a nine-year-old
Bayern's new starlet has experienced a meteoric rise in the beautiful game. At the start of the season Renato Sanches, who joined Benfica's academy at the tender age of nine, was still in the Eagles' second string squad and also featured for the U-19 team in the UEFA Youth League. Then he got his big chance. After a bumpy start to the campaign Benfica found themselves eighth in the table at the end of October. The derby against local rivals Sporting at the time ended in a 3-0 defeat. Rui Vitoria opted to play the youngster. A month later he was a first-choice regular.
The fact that Benfica have only lost one league game since the debut of the technically-adept hotshot, and are just one point away from retaining the Portuguese league title, is closely associated with his introduction to the team. Renato Sanches has made 24 league (2 goals), six Champions League and four Taça Cup appearances. He made his international debut for Portugal in March. Portuguese sports journalists voted him the find of the season in May. He joins FC Bayern on 1 July.