Paul Clement could not have been too pleased with what he saw; his new glamour loanee, Bayern’s midfield starlet Renato Sanches, struggling to adapt to life in the Premiership. Clement had handed the youngster a vote of confidence in the form of a starting position against a freshly promoted Newcastle, but his faith was yet to be repaid.
It had been a Sunday fixture with little to offer in the way of entertainment, characterized by few ideas and even fewer chances for either side. But the balance seemed to swing in Swansea’s favor when Sanches burst through into space. Eager to banish what had been a tawdry debut, Sanches seemed set on salvaging three points for his team and some pride for himself, but his endeavor proved a little too much for his tired legs.
A comical stumble later and the attack came to nothing. Renato Sanches would remain on the pitch for only four more minutes, before being subbed off in the 69th for the more experienced, and more direct, Wilfried Bony. Swansea would go on to lose the tepid encounter 1-0, a Jamaal Lascelles header the only difference between the sides at the final whistle.
There is still a certain haughty attitude towards foreign players in the lower two-thirds of the Premier League; particularly classy, young, inexperienced players like Sanches. The league is one of the most cosmopolitan in the world, and yet the “can he do it on a rainy Tuesday night at Stoke?” cliche still abounds. The English admire attractive football as much as the next native of a jaded footballing nation, but still sneer at cultured youngsters who struggle with the robust physicality of the country’s top tier.
It will take a strong character for Sanches to weather the slings and arrows that have already come his way so far. This is precisely the opposite of what any player needs, especially one at Sanches’ stage of development, but this is the unfortunate nature of a highly competitive (and highly popularized) world game.
The fact remains, however, that Renato Sanches is an exciting young prospect who deserves time at the Liberty.
Exploding onto the World Stage
Even a player with the talent, ambition, and confidence of Renato Sanches could not have predicted how Euro 2016 would turn out. The young midfielder had never kicked a ball in anger at full international level when Portugal lined up against Iceland in their opening game, and had featured only 24 times in the senior side at Benfica. Despite this limited experience to draw upon, he had already secured a dream move to German heavyweights Bayern Munich.
Portugal would go on to win the tournament, helped immensely by a sparkling display from Sanches in the quarter-final against Poland, in which he scored his country’s equalizer. By July 10, Sanches’ international trophy haul had surpassed that of such hallowed names as Eusebio, Rui Costa and Luis Figo. He was still only 18-years old.
A move to south Wales
But, as so often happens, ambition can get the better of young players. The promised land of Bayern has, thus far, proved less than electrifying for Sanches. He started just four games last term and has yet to score in the famous red jersey. A loan move beckoned and, in August, after significant interest from some of Europe’s big hitters, salvation came in an unlikely form: Paul Clement’s Swansea City.
Despite the early jitters, Sanches’ Welsh adventure should still prove to be a fruitful one. Starting positions have been few and far between in Sanches’ career up to now, and the prospect of a solid season of plentiful minutes in a top class league must be a mouthwatering one for the Euro 2016 Young Player of the Tournament.
It’s been a baptism of fire, but no player deserves to be judged on a single game. Sanches’ induction into the Premier League was similar to that of many highly-rated foreign youngsters; a swift introduction to the turf via a sturdy challenge, in this case courtesy of Issac Hayden. Now, he will need to pick himself up, both figuratively and literally, and focus on winning the trust of the Swansea faithful.