Five Premier League clubs can currently boast a Golden Boy award winner in their ranks.
Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Everton (go on Wazza)… and Swansea.
Because yes, believe it or not, Renato Sanches is still technically a Swans player.
Sanches arrived in Wales with heaps of potential as a Euro 2016 winner and widely regarded as one of the coups of the summer window.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
Zero goals and zero assists later, Sanches is giving Stewart Downing’s infamous barren 2011/12 season a run for its money.
Considering the fuss about him nobody could quite have predicted the sheer magnitude of his fall from grace.
In a truly bizarre spell, his short lived Swansea career has been blotted by both forgettable and unforgettable snippets of mediocrity.
For example, on his debut he proceeded to give the ball away 23 times in 69 minutes during a 1-0 home defeat to Newcastle.
That’s once every three minutes.
He’s currently ranked as Swansea’s 15th best player this season, according to WhoScored‘s player data, with a rating of just 6.47.
But his nadir came in November against Chelsea in what many are labelling ‘the worst 45 minutes in Premier League history.’
Sanches was duly hooked by then Swans manager Paul Clement after a desperate cameo which even included him at one point confusing the advertising hoardings for one of his team-mates.
His last league start came in the first game of 2018 – a home defeat to Tottenham – and he’s barely been seen since lasting just 36 minutes in an FA Cup clash with Wolves four days later.
Bayern to blame?
But his issues seem to stem back to way before he made the surprise move to south Wales last summer.
Clement revealed after his sacking that Sanches was convinced he was joining ‘either Man United, Chelsea or PSG’ – but parent club Bayern Munich had other ideas.
He told The Times: “Bayern were saying, ‘You’re not going there, you’re not going to play.’
“When he came, he was far more damaged than I thought. It was really sad.”
After his £27.5m move to Germany from Benfica the summer before Sanches was effectively dropped by Carlo Ancelotti after just six games and was rarely seen again.
Then again anyone would struggle for minutes when competing with Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal and Javi Martinez.
But it was clearly a huge pill to swallow after only tasting success in his career up until that date.
Clement talked about Sanches having ‘the weight of the world on his shoulders’, with expectation clearly overawing him in England.
He said: “In training, when that pressure is not there, he was the best player.
“He could do things no one else could do. He’s got power, can go past people, got a shot on him.
“But in games, I looked at the choices he was making, shooting from 45 yards on the angle, and he kept making those mistakes.”
Sanches is a pale imitation of the boy who shone amongst men on the biggest stage of all at Euro 2016.
At his age this certainly isn’t the end of him, but his next move could be the biggest decision he ever makes.
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