"The way Sanches began and then scored the goal, it was similar to how I played. The commitment, dynamism, speed, participation, steadiness - he could have fallen twice en route to goal. But he wanted to get the goal he needed - he prevailed and received his reward." - Lothar Matthaus
Lothar Matthaus is the Bayern Munich legend who captained Germany to the 1990 World Cup title and won the Ballon d'Or in the same year, following Sanches' eye-catching effort against Benfica in the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League.
Meteoric Rise at Benfica
Born on 18th August 1997, the Portuguese wonderkid was quickly snapped up by the Benfica youth system at the tender age of 10. Amazingly, Benfica only had paid €750 and 25 footballs for his signature.
His upbringing had not been easy. He was brought up in a tough neighborhood, but his strong mind and aggression helped him through those early stages when other kids found the demands of such high-level football more difficult. As a result, he was nicknamed ‘El Bulo’ by his grandmother.
By October 2015, he had made his first team debut. In his first and only season with them, he helped Benfica win the Primeira Liga and Taça da Liga double, being awarded Primeira Liga Breakthrough Player and Golden Boy in the process.
Becoming Europe’s Golden Boy
Sanches was called-up for UEFA Euro 2016, making him the youngest Portuguese to be selected for an international competition, breaking a record held by Cristiano Ronaldo for 12 years. In the quarter finals against Poland, Sanches became the become the youngest player to score in a knockout match at a UEFA European Championship and the third-youngest overall and cemented his status as one of the hottest prospects in world football.
After his nation's 1–0 extra-time victory over hosts France in the final of the tournament, Sanches received the Young Player of the Tournament Award for his performances.
The call of Bavaria
Cited by Pep Guardiola as “one of the best young players in Europe.” and linked to behemoths across the continent - Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Sanches earned his move to Bayern Munich in a £27.5million (€35million) deal at the young age of 18, becoming the most expensive player to leave the Portuguese league.
However, little did he know how tough the transition would be. While Bayern did win the Bundesliga that season, as is the custom, Sanches played only 25 matches across all competitions and did not record a single goal or assist, starting only four matches and playing the full 90 minutes only once.
By the end of that first season, it was decided by both the player and the club that it would indeed be best for him to leave on loan. But there were only few select clubs that were willing to match the £8.5 million, including his wages and a loan fee.
Loan to Swansea
From being linked with the likes of PSG and Manchester United, to being on loan duty at Swansea, sanches’ career had taken quite a fall. But he was determined to not let that bough him down and took on English lessons as well to better communicate with his teammates.
However, by Christmas it became apparent that Swansea was not the club for him and neither was he a good fit for the club. His decision making was pretty poor, and he seemed to try the audacious every time even when a simple pass was available, which became apparent at a home game against Chelsea when he passed the ball to a red Carabao hoarding.
Swansea were deep in the relegation battle, come February, and a hamstring injury against Wolverhampton Wanderers limited his game time to only two more matches that season.
Redemption incoming ?
Following the unsuccessful loan spell, Bayern decided to cut their losses and he was sold to French side Lille, for a reported fee of 25m $ on a four-year contract in 2019.
So far, his career seems to be on the path of resurrection, with him playing in 23 league games and scoring 4 and assisting 3, from the central midfield spot. This season, Sanches has shown his brilliance in patches with a brilliant performance against Montpellier, scoring a wonder strike.
Still only 22, Sanches surely has time on his side and we can only hope that he achieves his full potential which he showed prior to the UEFA Euros 2016. The sky can be the only limit for the “next Clarence Seedorf”, as called by his Lille coach.