Where will Renato Sanches end up this summer? That’s a question that many have been asking over the last few months, and it looked for a long time like the answer was AC Milan — a club currently in the throes of a takeover by Red Bird, shareholders in FSG.
The Portuguese midfielder has rebuilt his reputation at Lille following a tumultuous few years, where he went from one of Europe’s most exciting prospects to a forgotten man after his ill-fated move to Bayern Munich following Euro 2016.
Sanches’ move to Bayern arguably arrived too soon for him, considering he’d only one good season at Benfica before signing a mammoth deal to join the German giants. Sanches struggled, and a loan move to Swansea didn’t reverse his fortunes.
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Since arriving a Lille in 2019, he’s quietly regained the reputation he’d earned during that one season in Portugal. Sanches played his part in Lille’s improbable Ligue 1 title success in 2020/21, when they somehow pipped league Goliaths Paris Saint-Germain.
Throughout last season, Sanches had been linked with a summer 2022 move away from Lille, with the feeling that the French club had served its purpose for him, and that it was time to make the move back to a bigger club.
Liverpool had been linked with him sporadically, but it’s seemed for months that he would be joining Milan, with the Italian side in negotiations with Lille and Sanches’ representatives for months.
However it seems like the deal to Milan may no longer be happening. Their recent takeover by RedBird, who hold a minority stake in FSG, hasn’t been officially ratified, and so Milan’s reported transfer budget is limited to around £50m.
With the Rossoneri needing another centre-back, plus a midfielder, right-sided attacker and a number 10, the club’s resources are stretched thin. Moreover, recent interest from PSG has resulted in Lille driving up their asking price for Sanches.
Is this the perfect time for Liverpool to get involved in the race for the 24-year-old and make a bid?
Sanches would be a decent option in terms of bolstering the club’s squad depth, especially in midfield, where Jürgen Klopp had some difficulties last season. Sanches can operate across the midfield, and this versatility could prove very useful for Klopp in terms of team rotation in what will be a very tough season, due to the World Cup being played right in the middle of it.
Among midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues over the last year, Sanches ranked in the 98th percentile for progressive passes per 90 minutes, according to FBRef. Moreover, he also ranked in the 96th percentile for progressive carries P90, and has been compared by the website to Jordan Henderson. Klopp could secure a natural heir while also getting the ideal creative spark for which he has been looking.
Perhaps the only doubt on Sanches is his injury record. He missed spells of Lille’s season due to knee and muscle injuries, and the last thing Liverpool need is another player who is susceptible to injury.
Yet if Liverpool could keep the transfer fee down, Sanches would be a low-cost gamble. He’s still young enough to develop under Klopp, and while he wouldn’t be an immediate starter for the club, he would add some much-needed depth, and his versatility would be equally as valued.
Should the move to Milan or PSG completely fall through, Liverpool would do well to register interest in him. RedBird’s loss could be FSG’s gain.
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