Bayern-bound Sanches wary of threat posed by future team-mate
YOU could be forgiven for thinking Portugal is just about one player but there is actually a potential superstar in the squad whose first name isn’t Cristiano.
Renato Sanches is just 18 and yet after a superb breakthrough season with Benfica he won himself not only a place for the European Championships but also a €35m move to Bayern Munich.
The 18-year-old, like all his teammates, remains in a certain someone’s shadow; however, the midfielder is a real prospect and tipped to be Portuguese football’s next big thing.
A shock draw last time out against Iceland, the smallest country in terms of population that have made any major finals, was a setback, and yet Sanches is confident things can be put right against Austria today.
“The squad are relaxed and despite the draw we still feel good,” he said. “In fact, it increases our motivation and desire because we know that every game will be more difficult now. So I think we’re quietly determined.
“I expect the same from Austria that I was expecting from Iceland – a very aggressive team. Every game is going to be difficult, we all know that. We are expecting to come up against a very aggressive team that want to win, because if they lose this match they’ll be in a very difficult position. So we’re expecting to face a team playing with great intensity.
“David Alaba is a great player, and everyone is aware of that. A specific plan? I don’t think so.
“Every player at this tournament is here because they’re a quality player. Some players are better than others, of course.
“But I don’t think we have a specific plan to stop Alaba, even though he’s a great player.”
Sanches is the youngest player ever to represent Portugal at a finals, beating Ronaldo and even Eusebio.
“I’m very happy about that,” he said. “It’s brilliant to play in these matches here with my team-mates – fantastic players who I’m slowly getting to know.
“I am very happy that I am able to enjoy this moment.”
ON THE RISE: Portugal’s Renato Sanches