Last week, German champions Bayern Munich announced the signing of Benfica midfielder Renato Sanches on a five-year-deal.
The initial transfer fee is around £27.5 million, which could potentially rise to an eye-watering £63 million with various add-ons, and it makes Sanches the first ever Portuguese player to join the Bavarian side.
Manchester United were heavily linked with a summer move for the 18-year-old starlet and towards the end of last month, The Guardian reported that the Red Devils were close to agreeing a £46 million deal after talks with Benfica.
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The events of the past few days have left many United supporters furious with Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, who will be left wondering if Sanches was the one that got away.
Brought through the ranks at Benfica, he is widely regarded as the brightest prospect to emerge from Portugal since Real Madrid superstar and former Red Devil Cristiano Ronaldo.
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Van Gaal’s priorities
In the aftermath of Bayern’s announcement, it's been revealed that United’s hesitation forced Benfica to do business with the German champions. The Manchester club, on the other hand, claimed that Louis van Gaal vetoed a possible move for Sanches back in February and is pursuing other transfer targets.
The 64-year-old, who apparently expects to see out the final year of his contract, has said for some time now that United need fast, creative forwards.
In his press conference before Sunday’s abandoned match with Bournemouth, Van Gaal praised his team’s overall defensive organisation but said they have to score more goals. During the Dutchman’s tenure at Old Trafford, United have been linked with several attacking players of Sanches' calibre, from Felipe Anderson to most recently Joao Mario, Sanches’ international teammate.
Breakthrough season for Sanches
Sanches only broke into the Benfica first-team this season, making his debut in late October, but he went on to establish himself as a regular at the Estadio da Luz.
He has made 34 senior appearances in all competitions this term, as Benfica won the Portuguese league title for a third successive year as well as reaching a League Cup final.
The youngster, who is versatile in the centre of the park, has produced some fantastic performances over the past few months, fully displaying his power and skillfulness.
Sanches scored twice and provided an assist in the game that won Benfica the title and his excellent form even saw him make his debut for the Portugal national team against Bulgaria in March.
Bayern’s gain, United’s loss
Had Sanches moved to Old Trafford, his energy and dynamism would have been a great way of freshening up the midfield, seeing as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick are aged 31 and 34 respectively.
Only time will tell if it was a definite mistake from Man United to pull out of the race to sign the talented teenager, but they could well look back on it with regret.
Meanwhile, current Bayern Munich chief executive and former player Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described Sanches as a “dynamic, combative and technically gifted midfielder”.
Upon his arrival at the Allianz Arena this summer, Sanches will work with former Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Bayern’s squad is currently blessed with top-class midfielders such as Xabi Alonso, Thiago and Arturo Vidal, so Sanches has a huge task on his hands to break into their starting line-up next year.
However, at just 18, he has an immense amount of potential and it’s more than likely that United have missed out on a future star of European football.
Will United regret not signing Sanches? Have your say in the comments.