There are not many players who can say they've lined up alongside and outshone Cristiano Ronaldo at a major international tournament, but Bayern Munich's Herculean midfielder Renato Sanches is one of them.

From the history-making rise to the well-documented fall and a fightback Muhammad Ali would have been proud of, presents 10 career nuggets on one of the most gifted players in world football today...

1) A portent of great things

Born on 18 August 1997, Sanches shares his birthday with some luminaries of world football. Frenchman Just Fontaine, now in his mid 80s, remains the top scorer in a single FIFA World Cup with his haul of 13 in the 1958 competition, while Gianni Rivera is now an Italian politician, but the septuagenarian made over 500 appearances with AC Milan between 1960 and 1979.

2) The bull becomes a man

There must be something in the August air because Sanches had been snapped up by Benfica before he turned 10. He scored his first professional goal for Benfica B, in August 2015, and was playing for the first team by the end of the same year, becoming the Eagles' youngest goalscorer at the Estadio da Luz since the turn of the century with his goal against Academica.

"Renato was audacious, he was a pure product of street football," Renato Paiva, one of his former coaches at the Benfica academy, told the Expresso newspaper. "At first he wasn't very obedient. He came from a neighbourhood where there weren't many rules and he struggled to understand that he was now in a world where rules were necessary."

No wonder his grandma nicknamed him El Bulo (the bull).

Renato Sanches was just 18 when he burst onto the professional scene with Benfica. © gettyimages

3) Pep's crystal ball

It was during his breakthrough 2015/16 season at Benfica that Sanches caught Bayern's eye. Future world-beater met soon-to-be employers in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals that year, with Benfica bowing out 3-2 on aggregate. Still, Sanches came up smelling of roses, earning praise from none other than Pep Guardiola, and a summer move to Germany's record champions to boot.

"He's one of the best young players by far in Europe," then Bayern coach Guardiola enthused. "He's dynamic, has a lot of quality and, above all, has character. He covers a lot of ground. He's top, top quality and has got a big future ahead of him."

4) In Ronaldo's footsteps

Guardiola's prophecy came true, albeit much sooner than most would have expected. Despite playing just four times for Portugal when he was called up by head coach Fernando Santos for UEFA Euro 2016, the Benfica academy graduate went on to feature in all but one of The Navigators' matches en route to lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy.

In doing so, Sanches became the youngest player in history to play in a European Championship final. Aged 18 years and 328 days, he broke the competition record held by none other than his captain, Cristiano Ronaldo. The latter player had been 19 years and 150 days old when he featured in Portugal's defeat to Greece in 2004.

Sanches played a key role as Portugal stunned hosts France in the UEFA Euro 2016 final. © imago

5) The year of Renato Sanches

A record-breaker with the world at his feet, it came as no surprise when Sanches picked up the award for Euro 2016 Young Player of the Tournament. "It's amazing for a young player like him to acquit himself as he did at his first major tournament," said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "He has extraordinary talents. Bayern would not have been able to afford him had we tried to sign him after the Euros."

Sanches later scooped the European Golden Boy award, beating Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford as well as Bayern teammate Kingsley Coman. The prize - established by Tuttosport and voted for by journalists from 30 European newspapers - recognises the best player under the age of 21 over a calendar year.

6) Premier League detour

Cruising at 110mph in the career fast lane, Sanches' rapid progression hit the skids shortly after arriving in Munich on a five-year deal. He made just 25 appearances in all competitions in his first season in Bavaria, before an ill-fated, injury-hit loan spell in the English Premier League with Swansea sent him spiralling to the back of the grid.

Bayern kept faith, though, and welcomed him back for a second bite of the cherry in summer 2018.

"My smile was always there. I've never lost that, but now I feel that I'm more mature, so maybe that gives me a different perspective on a lot of things," Sanches revealed at the time. "It's been tough, but I'm strong. I feel I've arrived now."

Watch: Renato Sanches on what it means to be back at Bayern

7) Happy homecoming

And so it proved when, on his first start for Bayern in 16 months, against his former and boyhood club Benfica in the UEFA Champions League, Sanches ran the full length of the pitch to start and then finish an incredible team goal. Making his first competitive Bayern strike all the sweeter, he received a standing ovation.

"I'm so happy that I'm able to experience an evening like this in Lisbon, and I'd like to thank the Benfica fans [for their applause after my goal]," Sanches said. "It was a very special moment for me, and I enjoyed it very much."

The Benfica game was only his 27th for Bayern after joining the club in summer 2016.

8) The new Matthäus?

"The Bavarians now have the Sanches that they wanted," declared Bayern legend Lothar Matthäus, 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.

"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.

"In that sense, he really reminded me of myself. Of course, he will have to keep in shape to play that way. It was the same for me."

9) Strong body, strong mind

Another Sanches fan boy, Joshua Kimmich has been mightily impressed with the way the strapping midfield bulldozer has knuckled down after a testing first spell at Bayern.

"I take my hat off to him," he said after Sanches stepped off the bench to help Bayern beat Mainz on Bundesliga Matchday 9 of the 2018/19 campaign. "It takes some guts to come here alone at 18. He didn’t have it so easy the first time around but then to come back and clearly state that he wanted to succeed – it’s remarkable how he’s done that, mentally."

Although he stands just 1.76m tall, Renato Sanches is a potent cocktail of pace, power and guile. © gettyimages / Octavio Passos/Getty Images

10) Mourinho's No.1 draft pick

That all explains why Jose Mourinho wanted to bring Sanches under his wing at Manchester United. Unfortunately for him, Sanches put pen to paper with Bayern two weeks before Mou signed on the dotted line at Old Trafford.

"I arrived late," recalled Mourinho. "I signed in May. We started talking a week before, but completely out of the process. If I had arrived earlier, I’d fight for him.

"Manchester United watched Renato many times and maybe I did it even more. In so much time at home, I watched many Benfica and Portuguese league games. I got to know the boy better with time. He's in a big club, in a league where he'll certainly be the champion."

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