Bayern Munich midfielder Renato Sanches has spoken of the renewed sense of confidence he feels in the wake of his first Bundesliga start in almost 18 months against Augsburg.
“My team helped me a lot and I’m happy,” Sanches declared to bundesliga.com after the 1-1 draw with Augsburg. He then reserved special praise for coach Niko Kovac, adding, “I have more confidence. The coach gives me confidence. He told me before the season to keep working because my moment will come and I’d get my chance. It’s given me the confidence to play for a big club like Bayern.”
Watch: Sanches on his happiness at playing football
And the 21-year-old looks to have taken that chance now it’s arrived. Through a combination of his own hard work during pre-season and the loss of fellow midfielder Corentin Tolisso to injury, Sanches has started to resemble the promising player Bayern signed in summer 2016.
He was named Europe’s Golden Boy in 2016 on the back of his performances for Portugal in their UEFA Euro 2016 triumph. But since joining the German record champions that summer, Sanches has struggled for form and playing time.
He clocked up just 615 minutes in his maiden Bundesliga season before being sent out on loan to Swansea City in the English Premier League for 2017/18. But even there he struggled for minutes, managing just 703 on the pitch before a hamstring injury in January all but ended his season.
His return to Munich was shrouded in doubt. Questions were being asked whether Sanches would ever play for Bayern again. Would he win over new coach Kovac?
Well it appears the midfielder has won over more than his new boss, with fans and teammates alike full of praise for his performances.
Speaking after the draw with Augsburg, World Cup winner Mats Hummels explained what Sanches brings to the team: “He’s all about power. He’s someone in midfield who can give opponents the slip and run at pace with the ball. When he can do that then he’s incredibly valuable to us. He showed that in Lisbon [against Benfica] and yet again today.”
Bayern managed 16 shots on goal against Augsburg, with five of those falling to Sanches. As Hummels pointed out, “he created all his chances himself thanks to his irresistible display”.
Although he failed to convert any of those efforts in the league, he was rewarded for one of his driving runs in the Champions League when he started and finished Bayern’s second goal at Benfica – his hometown club.
He received a standing ovation from Benfica and Bayern fans alike in the wake of that goal. Right-back Joshua Kimmich remarked, “I've never experienced something like that when the opposition fans stood to applaud Sanches' goal. He hasn't had it easy, so hats off to him. To come here and play like that was great. I hope it continues.”
Fans of both Bayern and football in general will be hopeful of that, too. It has been a hard two years for Sanches since moving to Germany, but it finally looks like the midfielder has his mojo back in Munich.