Get ready for the new Renato Sanches; a more confident, mature, fun-loving and ambitious version of the once wary teen who arrived at Bayern Munich with the weight of the watching world on his young shoulders in 2016.
This time it feels different. Things have been learned, life experiences gained. The Portuguese midfielder who once lit up Lisbon's Estadio da Luz, dreadlocks bouncing as he blazed forward in a Benfica shirt, has got his mojo back and is determined to master Munich at the second time of asking.
"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," the 20-year-old explained to German publication Sport1.
A Portuguese Liga win, a move to Bayern and a glorious summer with Portugal at UEFA EURO 2016, Renato Sanches truly was the Golden Boy that year. The glitter and confetti swept to one side, however, and something soon started to seem ever so slightly awry, those talented feet looked a little less assured, the bright lights a tad blinding.
After 25 appearances in all competitions in his first season in Bavaria, a subsequent loan move to Swansea was designed to iron out the creases. Bedevilled by injury, however, the year away lost some of its purpose, if not all of it.
"I learned English and also grew closer to a lot of my teammates; I was out of my comfort zone," Sanches explains. "It was a step, one that has helped me to move forward." Indeed, the next chapter of his fascinating tale could yet be entitled 'Niko Kovac,' given the growing expectancy that the new Bayern Munich coach can help Sanches realise his awesome potential at the Allianz Arena.
"Working with the coach is amazing, he manages to address each and every player individually. That's important to me, but also to the whole team," the midfield dynamo said.
And even with the abundance of talent coach Kovac will be able to choose from, Sanches is certain there is an original ingredient he can bring to the Bayern recipe. "I’m a player who wants to drive with the ball, who can break lines in midfield through a one-on-one situation, a quality that others may not have, and I hope I can help [the team] with these attributes."
Already bringing his best game to pre-season training, the reward of a sizzling free-kick goal struck against opponents Paris Saint-Germain in an International Champions Cup win in Austria was celebrated with deserved fervour by the Lisbon native. "I practice free kicks after training, so I had a positive feeling at the moment [I struck the ball] that I wanted to score in the way that I did. I hope that many more goals for Bayern will follow," he said. "Personally, I've found more fun and to establish myself, I need the fun. I have it now."
What Sanches also has is, "a lot more self-confidence," compared to when he arrived at Bayern two years ago, something he feels can help him to, "come back stronger." "I'm proud to be a player here and to have a contract until 2021, which I intend to fulfil. I want to establish myself with Bayern. I feel that I’ve arrived now.” Say hello to Renato Sanches 2.0.