Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches has revealed how difficult it has been adapting to playing in the Bundesliga, but says he is nearing the level he wants to be.
Sanches was just 18 when he made the move to Munich from Benfica as a freshly minted UEFA Euro 2016 winner with Portugal, but was unable to recapture the form that had earned him the tournament’s Best Young Player prize.
The prodigiously gifted midfielder played just 615 minutes of senior club football in 2016/17, and his struggles only continued during an injury-hit loan spell in the English Premier League with Swansea City.
‘El Bulo’ made just 12 appearances between 10 September 2017 and 2 January 2018 without even mustering a shot on target - let alone scoring or creating a goal - before returning to Munich for a second bite of the cherry in summer 2018.
"I thought [Euro 2016] had prepared me for all the pressure in the Bundesliga. I thought I was ready. I found out pretty quick, though, that I wasn’t.
"Football in Munich, and in Germany as a whole, is so different. In Portugal, I would just run and run and run because I had the technical ability and awareness to make up for any fatigue. In Germany, you can run, but the game is so fast that it has to be coordinated otherwise you’ll get caught out of position."
Although Sanches has been limited to 45 competitive outings in his three years as a Bayern player, there have been more than a few indications of late that he is approaching a return to his all-conquering performances of 2016.
Given a new lease of life by current Bayern coach Niko Kovac, the 18-time Portugal international has made 19 appearances so far in 2018/19, including 13 in the Bundesliga.
Six of those have been starts, the first of which came some 16 months after his last in a Bayern shirt - against boyhood club Benfica in the UEFA Champions League groups stage. He marked the occasion with a lung-busting goal, and even earned a standing ovation for his efforts.
Watch: Renato Sanches on being back in the Bayern fold
"Playing with Bayern again, I feel like I began to find my game. I want to keep hearing people around Munich say, 'That’s the Renato we signed, that’s why we got him.'
"I feel like, with time, I’ll get there. This season has been getting better for us, and for me. I know we can keep improving, and I know that I’m capable of much more.
"My journey hasn’t been simple. But it’s not over. Not even close."