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Are we losing Renato Sanches? Euro 2016 wonderkid must quit Bayern to rescue career

09:00 IST 05/06/2019
Renato Sanches Bayern Munich 2018-19
Portugal head to the Nations League finals without the midfielder, who has been overlooked once more thanks to his lack of club football

When Renato Sanches scored his first-ever Bundesliga goal, he initially embraced his team-mates before running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with the players he has grown closest to at Bayern Munich: Franck Ribery and Rafinha.

Almost every week, the trio would watch from the bench as Niko Kovac's preferred starting XI picked up the points necessary to win the Bundesliga title. That's where they all started as Bayern defeated Eintracht Frankfurt on the last day of the season, with Sanches introduced as a first-half substitute due to an injury to Leon Goretzka. Ribery, the much-decorated veteran, also emerged from the dugout to score in an emotional send-off, following 12 seasons and more than 400 games and 23 trophies with Bayern.

Dependable backup Rafinha was left playing the role that younger colleague Sanches usually filled – that of unused substitute. But like Ribery, Rafinha had been an important figure for Bayern for the best part of a decade - with over 200 games and 18 trophies to his name in Munich. Sanches is more likely to be remembered as the club's cautionary tale.

A brief glimpse at Sanches's stats for Bayern actually make his tenure at the Allianz Arena look somewhat impressive: 50 games over three seasons (one of which was spent out on loan) and four trophies. But in truth, the 26 appearances he had this season only add up to 782 minutes of football and the 24 games in 2016-17 produced 903 minutes - less than 19 full matches.

His Champions League minutes in 2018-19 are particularly damning. After starting and scoring at former club Benfica, he was left on the bench twice and then had brief cameos in the rest of the European campaign, including a one-minute outing against Ajax where he only touched the ball once and a two-minute run-around at Liverpool where he had the ball four times and lost possession twice.

After being granted more time to shine against Frankfurt and netting his first league goal in the process, Sanches should have been delighted when speaking to the media. However, the 21-year-old knows all too well not to get carried away. He was hyped up as one of the best teenagers in the world when he first signed for Bayern Munich, having won the Young Player of the Tournament award with Euro 2016 winners Portugal. But due to his stuttering career in Munich, he only has five caps in the three years since.

Upon scoring his first Bundesliga goal, Sanches told Sport1: "I scored a goal, I am satisfied. I'm just waiting for more opportunities. As I said a few months ago, I want to play more. I am a young player. If you're young and do not play much, you're not feeling well. I love football and just want to be used more often."

Leaving Bayern would be the best choice for Sanches at this moment. The club would like to keep him around to add depth in midfield next season and have been reluctant to sell as they have no chance of recouping the €35 million (£30m/$40m) outlay they spent in 2016.

His loan deal at Swansea was an unmitigated disaster, but he showed enough promise in brief appearances this season that some club may be willing to persuade Bayern to let him leave on loan in 2019-20.

He revealed that Kovac has not yet spoken to him about the club's plans for 2019-20, but with Corentin Tolisso also proving his fitness after injury, the midfield continues to be a crowded area and chances for Sanches do not look like improving next season.

"We have not talked yet," he admitted. "In the next few weeks we will talk and then see what happens. I just want the best for me and my family. I want to be happy, but if you do not play, you are not happy."
Finding a suitor for Sanches could prove difficult as there are no more chances for him to impress this summer. Three years ago, he was in France with Portugal en route to winning the European Championship as a teenage wonderkid.

In October and November of last year, it looked as if he had played his way back into Fernando Santos' thoughts for Portugal, but Sanches' lack of club football in the second half of the season has once again torpedoed his international career. Santos left him out of his 23-man squad for the Nations League finals, with Sanches having missed the Confederations Cup, the World Cup and now the Nations League finals since Euro 2016.

Staying at Bayern Munich would leave Sanches in the same situation he is in now. He would do well to follow the example of Rafinha and move on from the club. The 33-year-old Brazilian will end his playing days away from Munich, while 21-year-old Sanches risks his own playing career at the top level if he decides to stay.