Mention Liverpool tracking a highly rated, 18-year-old Portuguese midfielder and most fans would think you’re talking about Ruben Neves, FC Porto’s superstar in waiting and a player who has already captained his side in the Champions League. Neves, though, was an autumn rumour, and with the winter nearly through there’s need for a new name for the rumour mongers to obsess over.
Enter Renato Sanches, a highly rated, 18-year-old Benfica midfielder. He doesn’t have quite the acclaim of his fellow countryman, but he is a similarly versatile midfielder who has represented Portugal at every youth level and is already knocking on the door of the senior side. Compared to Neves, he’s a slightly more attack-minded player, but both have such robust skill-sets they could make an impact nearly anywhere.
Like Neves, he would also cost a small, Raheem Sterling-sized fortune, with reports that Benfica have hinted they would be ready to sell him for around €60M—a veritable bargain sat next to his €80M release clause. Or perhaps not, given even Neves isn’t likely to fetch that kind of a fee if he leaves Porto this summer, and Sanches most certainly isn’t ready to bring in that much money for Benfica just yet.
Given the public talk of release clauses and sale prices and interested clubs, though—Arsenal, Chelsea, and the Manchesters all rumoured to also be scouting Sanches—it seems fairly clear that something is going on, and the likeliest is that Benfica are fishing for payday and trying to spark a bidding war amongst England’s richest clubs. If true, we’re likely to hear a lot more about Sanches to Liverpool in the coming months.
As good a player as he is and as promising a prospect, too, that seems the wisest light to view any rumours linking him with a move to Anfield. For the right price, he’s certainly a talented youngster and a player who could in a few years find himself mentioned alongside the likes of Paul Pogba. He isn’t there yet, though, and if Benfica are fishing for for a Pogba-sized fee they could be waiting quite a while.