By now, the paths at this European soccer championship are well known. From the well-guarded team hotel in the northernmost part of Margaret Island in Budapest, the team bus of the Portuguese national team the already familiar training center of the Hungarian second division team Vasas Budapest at. The training sessions now take place in the evening hours, as an oppressive sultriness has settled like a haze over the Hungarian capital. Which helps as preparation for the reigning European champions' round of 16 match against perennial secret favorites Belgium on Sunday (9 p.m./ZDF and MagentaTV), because Sevilla is also experiencing oven temperatures.
The fact that Sunday's match will be played in the Andalusian blazing heat and not in Munich again is very convenient for a Portuguese player – not only because of the 2:4 defeat in the preliminary round at his old place of work against Germany. Renato Sanches, the powerhouse with the dreadlocks, last advanced in the shadow of the radiant superman Cristiano Ronaldo against world champion France (2:2) to the most conspicuous figure. Ball hauler, steam generator, pacesetter. Without the bizarre penalty spectacle, the Selecao's number 16 might even have been named player of the match. Alongside record-breaking Ronaldo, the 23-year-old is the Portuguese's smoothest secret weapon right now. "I think I did well," says Sanches.
Failed at Bayern
Because national coach Fernando Santos wanted more physicality in addition to the backstop Danilo Pereira, he gave the running and two-fight strong Sanches for the first time in the starting eleven the place in half-left midfield. "My body is my weapon. It is one of my strengths to use the physical skills, but of course other skills also count."After coming on as a substitute for William Carvalho, his team laced the late treble against Hungary (3-0), against Germany he provided a second-half revival, now he seems to be a regular player. After central defender Ruben Dias, who again almost single-handedly controlled the build-up to the game with 94 passes against France, Sanches gave away the second most passes (71). 96 percent of the passes arrived. When Santos substituted him shortly before the end, supporters and reserves euphorically applauded the hard worker. The community knows who is holding the big picture together at Ronaldo's back.
If Portugal wants to take the hurdle Belgium, then it needs someone who has already been in that starting eleven, which on 10. July 2016, the European Championship hosts France lost the title they thought they had won. At 18 years and 328 days, Sanches was the youngest player to play in a final – before that, his move to FC Bayern for 35 million euros was sealed. But in Munich, everyone rubbed their hands too soon. The fine-tuning of the jewel failed grandiosely, with the player himself also clearly doing too little to really gain a foothold in Germany.
Rumors of Bayern return
It wasn't until his move to OSC Lille in the summer of 2019 that Sanches found confidence in his own abilities again, after also being subbed out on loan in the Premier League. In the sensational win of the French championship with Lille, the Portuguese was a leader. "He had a difficult phase at Bayern, but since this season he has blossomed again. Renato has enormous physical capabilities," Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro said of his teammate ahead of the European Championship. Sometimes his style of play is risky, but when he finds his balance on the court, he helps every team.
Already first rumors make the rounds, the FC Bavaria Thinking about a buyback option for 30 million euros. France's Kingsley Coman fueled such speculation when he commented on an Instagram post by the Portuguese with a wink smiley "see you soon" – see you soon. Instead of Munich, Renato Sancho is now intensively occupied with Sevilla. And that's just as well