Bayern Munich will be able to keep a close eye on Portuguese midfielder Renato Sanches as he gets some much-needed game time in southwestern Wales. This is one deadline day deal that suits all parties involved .
When Bayern Munich scraped past Benfica in Champions League quarterfinal second leg in Lisbon in April, 2016, one player stood out in the Portuguese capital.
Renato Sanches dominated the midfield, his dynamism, athleticism and quick-thinking gave Bayern’s much more experienced trio of Thiago, Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal headaches for the full 90 minutes. Bayern acted quickly, snapping up the then-18-year-old for 35 million euros ($35.4 million).
Bayern’s outlay, the fourth-highest transfer fee in the club’s history, seemed like money well-spent when Sanches helped Portugal to victory at Euro 2016 in France. But by the time Sanches won Europe's Golden Boy award last October, he had already lost his way in Germany.
Carlo Ancelotti had taken over from Pep Guardiola with the remit of delivering the one trophy that the Catalan couldn't - the Champions League. The Italian's recipe was one based on experience and the young Sanches found himself kept out of the team by the same midfield trio he had run rings around in Lisbon just months earlier.
He made a total of 25 appearances in all competitions but only four starts, failing to score or even provide an assist in just 903 minutes of football. For Bayern’s biggest games against Borussia Dortmund (in league and cup) and Real Madrid (in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg), he wasn't even on the bench.
A chance for a fresh start
The move to Munich clearly came too soon for the youngster but he now has a chance to get his career back on track following his deadline-day loan move to Premier League side Swansea City.
For Sanches himself, it should mean more game time. Despite Xabi Alsono’s retirement, competition for places in Bayern’s midfield has only intensified this summer with the arrivals of Corentin Tolisso from Lyon, Sebastian Rudy from Hoffenheim and James Rodriquez from Real Madrid. Young German starlet Joshua Kimmich also has designs on a midfield role.
But Swansea, who hail from a small, working class city of 200,000 in southwestern Wales and have undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years, will hope that Sanches’ dynamism and creativity can go some way to filling the void left by departed Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Carlo and Clement
Current head coach Paul Clement, who took over in January after working as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant at Chelsea, Paris St Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, will be well aware of the Portuguese youngster's qualities. The Clement factor also makes the deal a win-win situation for Bayern, who have insisted that Sanches still has a future in Munich.
"We are still convinced that he has the potential to become an important player for FC Bayern," chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told sports newspaper "kicker" this week. "We wanted Renato to go to a club where he could play at a high level and have a coach who counts on him."
Thanks to Clement's relationship with Ancelotti, Bayern will be able to keep an extra close eye on Sanches' development. Should he progress as much as Bayern hope, Sanches will return to Munich looking more like the 35-milllion-euro dynamo they bought last summer, a young player who fits president Uli Hoeness' vision for a future based on youth.
And should Bayern decide not to recall him, they will be in a position to command a significant fee from an inflated Premier League transfer market - for a player who will have had a year of playing in England's top flight under his belt.
It’s a win-win situation for all concerned.