Why are Liverpool chasing Renato Sanches?

Renato Sanches of Lille OSC (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
Renato Sanches of Lille OSC (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images) /

Amidst all the hype surrounding Jadon Sancho’s move to Manchester United, Liverpool’s interest in Portugal’s Renato Sanches has gone under the radar. Journalist Rudy Galetti says that the Reds are in pole position to sign the midfielder and that the likes of Arsenal, Juventus and Milan are interested too.

While Liverpool are yet to make an official approach, they will try to persuade him if he decides to leave his current club, Lille.

A Premier League experience won’t be a new challenge for the Portuguese who had a brief stint at Swansea City while on loan from Bayern Munich in the 2017/18 season. His tenure, however, was marred with injuries as he could only make 15 appearances across all competitions while failing to score a goal.

A difficult club career

All English Premier League
All English Premier League /

All English Premier League

Sanches has had his fair share of hardships since bursting onto the scenes with Benfica as one of the top prospects in the 2015/16 football season. The trajectory of his footballing career, however, went south after he was named the Golden Boy in 2016.

Sanches, then 18, attracted interest from the likes of Manchester United and Bayern Munich but ended up choosing the latter. The decision backfired as his role with the Bavarians was confined to being a squad player.

A move away from the spotlight though brought his mojo back. Sanches joined Lille ahead of the 2019/20 season and went on to play a crucial role as his team won the 2020/21 Ligue 1 title.

Carrying his sumptuous form in the ongoing UEFA euro 2020, the 23-year-old impressed one and all with his exhilarating displays. He was ranked alongside Cristiano Ronaldo for successful dribbles in the continental championship. He averaged two dribbles per game at the Euro.

Why are Liverpool chasing Renato Sanches?

The ideal notion here would be the replacement of Georginio Wijnaldum, who recently left Liverpool for Paris Saint-Germain.

Both Wijnaldum and Sanches share a few similar traits, with the utmost being their versatility. Last season, Sanches played in as many as five different positions in midfield, ranging from defensive midfielder to box-to-box midfielder. He averaged 0.8 key passes per game as opposed to Wijnaldum’s 0.6 key passes in the league.

His lung-bursting runs and relentless forays also draw comparisons with Wijnaldum. This could mean that Sanches would seemingly fit into Jurgen Klopp’s style of play.

What makes the Portuguese an exciting prospect is his ability to carry the ball. Last season, he averaged 1.7 dribbles per game in Ligue 1 while Wijnaldum ended with a figure of 0.9 dribbles per game.

Speaking of being a ball carrier, Sanches averaged 7.75 progressive carries per 90 minutes last season in France. A carry is a movement of a player greater than five metres from where he has received the ball. Thus, a progressive carry is a movement towards the opposition goal. Liverpool Echo claims that this figure is only bettered by a mere six per cent of big-league midfielders.

As was evident in the Euros, Sanches isn’t afraid of taking on defenders. In Portugal’s 2-2 draw against France, Sanches had a 100% dribbling success rate, having completed three dribbles. Against Belgium in the round of 16, he completed three of his six attempted dribbles.

The downside of his game, however, is his tackling. Last season in Ligue 1, he averaged 1.2 fouls per game as compared to Wijnaldum’s cautious figure of 0.4 fouls per game. But at 23, there’s a big scope for improvement.

Will he be a good signing for Liverpool?

While all the aforementioned stats do say yes, one has to keep in mind his last tenure in the Premier League – with Swansea City – wasn’t really a great one. But then again, those were difficult times as he first struggled to breach into Bayern’s starting XI before scuffling with injuries after moving to the Premier League.

Now that he is completely away from the limelight, a move could indeed make some sense. The problem here though would be his contractual situation. Renato Sanches still has two years left on his current Lille deal and with several clubs expressing interest, the French team may look for a bigger transaction.

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This is where Klopp’s convincing will do the trick. A project as exciting as Liverpool and a manager as captivating as Klopp is simply too hard to resist. It worked for Thiago Alcantara, and it could work again for Renato Sanches.