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In the cruel and meme-driven world of modern football, a single missed pass can haunt a player for years.
Former Portuguese player Renato Sanches lost seven of his 22 passes during Swansea City’s trip to reigning Premier League champion Chelsea in November 2017. But the one who hit the red Carabao Cup logo on the billboard, in Rather than a red-shirted teammate, it’s one that has come to define the midfielder’s ill-fated assignment in South Wales.
Just 35 games for Benfica’s senior team, aged 18 and in his first senior soccer season, Sanches earned himself a call-up for Portugal’s Euro 2016 team and a big money move for German giant Bayern Munich. Three starts when his nation claimed its first international trophy that summer saw him named Young Player of the Tournament and awarded him the prestigious Golden Boy.
In less than 12 months, Sanches had gone from being a player bought by Benfica for € 750 – and 25 balls – to being the European champion of 35 million euros officially decreed as the most impressive footballer under 21 years of age on the continent.
If the rise was rapid, the fall was equally steep.
Sanches had six miserable league starts with Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern before the affable Italian did what everyone thought was a huge favor, handing the prodigy over to his former assistant Paul Clement at Swansea City in the summer of 2017.
After being denied his pick number following the Premier League intervention, 85, the digits that graced his back in that great season at Benfica, the Sanches nadir came in with that lost ball at Stamford Bridge. In a frankly candid interview with a French publication the team After leaving the club, Sanches lamented: “It was not my choice to go to Swansea. I was forced to go there. “
Clement later claimed that Sanches was much more damaged than [he] thought ‘. His successor in Swansea, Carlos Carvalhal, went a step further, saying: “Renato has great talent but stopped learning when he left Benfica.
Since he participated in nearly two-thirds of the available minutes when Benfica achieved a league and league cup double, playing time was agonizingly hard to come by for the energetic Portuguese midfielder. A luxury that was momentarily granted upon his return to Bayern with Niko Kovac.
It’s true that Sanches’ streak of nine consecutive Bundesliga appearances between September and November 2018 for Bayern was partly due to some notable injuries at the team. This streak may have also incorporated as many wins as losses (three of each), but at least Sanches was taking the field.
This series of minutes even prompted a return to the senior team after 17 months in the desert.
Yet just as Sanches conspired to contribute the only Bundesliga assist of his career, inadvertently scoring the only goal against RB Leipzig, the man dubbed the ‘Bavarian rasta rocket’ received an unnecessary second yellow card at the time. off.
Sanches started just one more match, in a meaningless outing on the final day of the season, in the next six months before Lille plummeted to get his career back on track.
Another Portuguese midfielder already installed in Lille, Xeka, highlighted the link between Sanches’ playing time and performance in the middle of his first campaign in France, stating: “He is playing game after game and that is making a difference now,” according to appointment objective. “It’s easier for him to show his level.”
After being deployed to a number of roles in Lille’s midfield, Sanches began to thrive heavily on the right side of a 4-4-2, facing more and more opponents as his confidence grew, powering Les Dogues through the field with a torrent. dribbling and actively contribute both on and off the ball.
In a shortened season of French soccer, Sanches nearly doubled his career production before coming to Lille, scoring three goals and giving up an assist when he achieved double digits early in the league for the first time since his first season in senior soccer. .
Interestingly, Lille coach Christophe Galtier has returned Sanches to his favorite position in central midfield this season, leading to a considerable drop in his defensive performance, but a large increase in forward progressive balls, doubling the number. of passes completed in the final third with a staggeringly high average. of more than ten for 90 minutes.
Lille followed last season’s Europa League qualification with guaranteed top-three status in Ligue 1 on Christmas Day.
Sanches’ rejuvenation has even led to talk of a move for current Premier League champions Liverpool in the upcoming winter window.
Plotting the arc of Sanches’ career on a scale of success versus time would represent a ski jump slope in profile. At just 23 years old, Sanches has time on his side, but he’s already burned out taking the leap of faith to a super club, can he risk making the same mistake again?