Renato Sanches and the Risks of Going Too Fast

Renato Paiva, the coach of Benfica’s under-19 group at the time, had pinned the set-piece routines to the locker room wall and gone outdoors. A couple of minutes later, he returned, and discovered a bunch of gamers in conclave, with Sanches at their heart. “I’d put down who was going to take free kicks short,” Paiva stated. “Renato was telling them all: ‘Don’t bother with short ones; the way we score goals is to get the ball into the box.’”

Paiva slipped away, unnoticed. “I waited until after the warm-up,” he stated. “I pulled him aside and asked him if he wanted to be a player or a manager. He said, ‘No, no, I want to be a player.’ So I told him to concentrate on that and leave the set-piece routines to me.”

Sanches was clearly a younger man in a rush. He had been promoted to Paiva’s under-19 group early, one of a handful of gamers — together with Manchester City’s Rúben Dias — to be fast-tracked straight from the under-17s. “When he first joined us, he said to me that he was not here to watch, and he was here to play,” stated Paiva, who stated he replied: “You show that on the field, not in conversation.”

When Sanches did, one other leap adopted. He was 17 when he made his skilled debut, for Benfica’s second-string group. Within a 12 months, the first group referred to as for him. “The transfer market was closed, and the first-team manager, Rui Vitória, needed an energetic midfielder,” Paiva stated. “It was the sort of time where you have to experiment, so he took Renato and gave him a chance. That is soccer: It is about the moment.”

Though circumstance had fallen in his favor, no person at Benfica doubted he was prepared. “It was fast,” stated Nuno Gomes, the director of Benfica’s youth academy at the time. “But if you had watched him play at all those levels, as I did, then you would not have been surprised.”

If something, although, Sanches was simply getting going. His first begin for Benfica’s first group was on Nov. 25, 2015. Within six months, he had been chosen as half of Portugal’s squad for the European Championship and offered to Bayern Munich for a king’s ransom.

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