LISBON: Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovač believes the German champions have unearthed the next Lothar Matthäus as Renato Sanches continues to resurrect his career with a stunning display at Benfica.
The 21-year-old sealed Bayern’s 2-0 win at Benfica yesterday as the Bavarian giants won their opening Champions League group game.
After Robert Lewandowski gave Bayern an early lead, Sanches finished a move he started after a powerful burst through midfield, by tapping home a cross early in the second half.
His goal capped an outstanding display and completes Sanches’ resurrection after two torrid seasons since joining Bayern as an 18-year-old from Benfica in the summer of 2016 for €35 million (RM170 million).
“It’s so special for me, I’ve played for Benfica for ten years, it’s where I learnt to play football and has a special place in my heart, I’m very happy,” he beamed.
So masterful was Sanches’ midfield performance at the Estadio da Luz that he was treated to a standing ovation by the home crowd and Kovač was reminded of Bayern and Germany legend Matthäus.
“Renato has an exceptionally good technique, very good speed, and a great body,” said Kovač of the Euro 2016 winner with Portugal.
“It’s true that people fly off him left and right — just like they used to do with Lothar Matthäus.”
“I’m delighted for Renato – I said yesterday that he was excellent in pre-season and it wouldn’t be long before he plays.”
“I wanted him to score two, but he only managed one,” he added with a grin.
Sanches deservedly revelled in the praise at Benfica after two disappointing years, first warming the bench at Bayern and then last season on loan at Swansea, but is now thriving under Kovač.
Matthäus, who captained Germany to the 1990 World Cup title, led the plaudits for the burly youngster.
“These are the kind of stories that football writes. He looks in shape and crowned his performance with a goal,” said the Sky pundit.
“It was a great gesture from the Benfica fans,” Matthäus added, referring to the home crowd’s standing ovation.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge later singled out Sanches during his traditional speech at the post-match banquet.
“Renato did not have such an easy time with us, and also at Swansea, but you took the chance brilliantly — you deserve it,” said the Bayern boss, to loud applause.