Arsenal has supposedly been “ravaged” by food-poisoning during their preseason trip to China, but someone is gonna have to prove to me that any teamwide incontinence wasn’t caused by Renato Sanches:
You might remember Sanches from Euro 2016, when he did his best Sonic the Hedgehog impression across six matches for Portugal, helping them to their first international trophy. At just 18, Sanches won Young Player of the Tournament — seemingly playing every game with an artificial third lung hidden under his jersey and scoring goals like this:
Where you certainly don’t remember Sanches from is this past club season. Last summer, before the Euros, Bayern Munich bought him from Benfica for €35 million … and then played Sanches for a grand total of 618 Bundesliga minutes over 10 months. Of course, with Thiago, Xabi Alonso, and Arturo Vidal, Bayern might have had the best collection of midfielders in the world, but positional competition or not, it was striking to see all the momentum Sanches built up last summer smash headfirst into a wall.
Sanches is a client of superagent Jorge Mendes, who’s the most powerful non-executive in the sport. At this point, every time a Mendes client changes teams, the logical assumption is that “This is going to maximize Mendes’s profit,” not “This is the best move for this player’s career.” Here’s The Guardian’s Barney Ronay in April:
The outsize influence of agents is nothing new, but Sanches puts it in stark relief. There’s this irrepressible joy behind how the now-19-year-old plays. He’s not measured and he’s not careful; he just wants to make something happen. Really, the only way to stop him is to not play him. And with Bayern’s June purchase of young French midfielder Corentin Tolisso, it looks like Sanches’s immediate future at Bayern is on the bench.
So, can someone please come get him? Even if it’s just on a loan, Sanches needs to play — and we need to see him. Maybe Mendes’s new satellite club, Wolverhampton, will come calling. Or maybe he needs a year or two below the elite — say Sevilla or Roma — before heading back to Germany. Or how ’bout AC Milan? They seem to know what they’re doing.