Renato Sanches has reiterated his displeasure at the lack of playing time he has been afforded at Bayern Munich, after being reduced to a minimal role at the German champions.
The Portuguese midfielder watched from the sidelines as Bayern beat second-tier Heidenheim 5-4 in the German Cup on Wednesday, with the arduous task of warming the substitutes bench becoming an all too familiar experience for the former Benfica man.
Sanches has played less than an hour of football since the turn of the year, with his longest appearance being a 16-minute cameo in the 6-0 win over Wolfsburg last month. The 21-year-old has not started a Bundesliga game since December’s 1-0 victory over RB Leipzig, during which Sanches assisted the only goal in a 1-0 win before being sent off for a second booking in the closing stages.
The lack of minutes is not only disappointing for the player, but perhaps a surprise given the reassurances issued to the €35m signing by Bayern coach Niko Kovac. The Croatian boss insisted that Sanches would be given opportunities ahead of this season, and the promise looked to have been fulfilled when he was given game time early on in the campaign, with the Seleção star being voted the club's player of the month for September.
As Bayern’s season came under uncertainty, Sanches saw his role reduced, leading to speculation in January that a move could be on the cards. Kovac rebutted the suggestion, telling reporters: “He'll play a lot of games in the rest of this season. If everything goes well, we'll have a lot of games in March and April. We could have nine games in 30 days in April, which is a hell of a lot, and we’ll need every player.”
Such assurances have continued to prove unfulfilled, and Sanches repeated his frustration at the turn of events after the match against Heidenheim. “It is not my decision,” he said. “I'm waiting for my opportunity and I keep working. Of course, I want to play more.
“The season has not finished yet. In two months everything is possible but I don't know. Of course (I am finding it difficult) but this is football, I am waiting. I am not happy.”
Sanches was asked whether Kovac, having made promises to give him more game time, had discussed the reasons for his exclusion. “No, he didn't. But it is his decision, not mine,” said the European Champion.
Bayern host Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, looking to overturn a 2-point deficit at the top of the German top flight.
By Sean Gillen