Renato Sanches accused of lying about age ahead of semi-final
Former Auxerre coach Guy Roux has questioned whether midfielder is really 18
Portugal’s Renato Sanches keeps Poland’s Robert Lewandowski at arm’s length during their quarter-final tie at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA
The teenager has been playing a bigger part for Portugal with each passing round of this championship and having won his second Man of the Match for his performance against Poland when he scored from the edge of the area on what was his first competitive international start, and then later put away what was probably the best penalty of the shoot-out, he has emerged as one of the most obvious threats to Wales when the two sides meet on Wednesday in Lyon.
Oddly, though, the only question Chris Coleman was asked at his prematch press conference about the midfielder was whether he believed he really looked 18, an enquiry prompted by a comment to the media by former Auxerre coach, Guy Roux, these days a well-known media pundit in France, to the effect that the player is at least five years older than he claims.
“He says he’s 18, but I think you should look at the past,” says Roux, who claims to be familiar with the case. “His date of birth was declared years after as it was never originally indicated to the registry. I can assure you that he is 23-24 years old.”
The idea that he was actually 13 at that stage or that Bayern Munich have very recently paid €35 million (with add-ons that could push the fee all the way up to €80 million) is absolutely beyond belief but that is what Roux, who would be generally regarded as a credible commentator, is apparently claiming.
“He was born in Portugal, not just anywhere . . . in Portugal,” said his own national team coach, Fernando Santos, when he too was asked about the player’s age at his prematch press conference. “Everybody . . . knows how old he is.”
Whatever about his age, what is certainly beyond doubt is the player’s potential with Sanches having marked himself out as a special talent during his debut season of first team football at Benfica and here in France, where he now looks likely to start against the Welsh.
“He’s very young and inexperienced . . . but he has shown that he has a big heart for the big occasion,” said Coleman who may well have been wilfully missing the actual point of the question he was asked. His team-mates have universally sung his praise with Nani making clear last week that he believes Manchester United, who are believed to have failed to capitalise on an early lead in the race to sign the player because of the managerial uncertainty at the club, will regret missing out.
Valencia’s Andre Gomes, who despite being a few years older, at 22, knew Sanches during his own time at Benfica, says that “everybody who has known him since his time with the Benfica youth academy knew about the potential he has”.
Sanches has certainly shown remarkable composure and confidence for his age with his display against the Poles comfortably eclipsing that of the team’s biggest star Ronaldo. The challenge now is to go one better than the Real Madrid star did when making his tournament debut on home soil and help drive the team on to the title. If he does that, even the money Bayern paid for him will start making sense.