The dust on Renato Sanches’ old locker at Bayern Munich has barely begun to settle, but the club’s stars are already missing him.
The Portugal midfielder completed his €25 million (£22.6m/$27.8m) switch to Lille this week, signing a four-year contract with the Ligue 1 side.
Signed from Benfica three years ago as one of European football’s hottest prospects, Sanches never managed to properly establish himself in the Bundesliga champions’ first team – but it seems he was a popular figure in the dressing room at the Allianz Arena.
"I've contacted him personally again, he's a great guy and I think it's too bad he's not with us anymore,” said goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
As club captain, Neuer would have seen a lot of Sanches as he adapted to life in Germany. The 22-year-old, though, clearly made an impact on even his most short-lived team-mates.
“He’s a great guy and a great player,” new signing Philippe Coutinho said. “I trained with him for three days. We will certainly miss him, but I wish him good luck and only the best.”
Bayern got their Bundesliga title defence up and running with a first league win of the season on Saturday. After scoring twice in the opening-day draw against Hertha Berlin, Robert Lewandowski went one better with a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Neuer’s former club Schalke.
Summer signings Coutinho and Ivan Perisic made their debuts as substitutes, while fellow new boy Mickael Cuisance also watched on from the bench. As a show of strength in depth it was impressive, but it also underlined the challenge Sanches had faced in breaking into the first team.
“Renato is a talented young man, he’s a really good boy as a person, too. I wish him good luck in Lille,” added sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
With one win and one defeat from their two league matches so far, Lille will be hoping Sanches can help them maintain and build on the standards set in last year’s excellent campaign.
Their next game sees them host Saint-Etienne on Wednesday evening, and their newest signing could be in line to make his club debut.