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Age not just a number for Portugal young gun Sanches

sportspaper Updated: Jul 03, 2016, 08:56 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

PARIS: Renato Sanches is being hailed as Portugal’s star of the future but the dreadlocked wonder kid is already causing controversy amid the rave reviews.

Questions have been asked about whether Sanches is really just 18.

And in more controversy, his former youth club accuses Benfica of failing to pay a promised bonus despite the Portuguese giants cashing in on Sanches’s talent by selling him to Bayern Munich last month for 35 million euros (Rs261 cr).

Born in the modest Lisbon suburb of Amadora, his August 18, 1997 date of birth has been questioned by several Portuguese sports pundits and, above all, by the directors of Benfica’ s age-old rivals Sporting Lisbon.

The Jornal de Noticias newspaper conducted an investigation with supporting documents claiming the youngster was indeed born on August 18, 1997 at the Amadora-Sintra hospital, but the birth was not registered until August 22, 2002.

The report said Sanches was not even five months old when his father, from the African island of Sao Tome and Principe, separated from his Cape Verdean mother, and emigrated to France. It was not until five years later that his father returned to deal with the registration of his son’s birth, which is where the doubts surrounding his age arise.

Affectionately called “Bulo” by his nearest and dearest, Sanches grew up in Musgueira, a densely populated area of northern Lisbon, where he started to play football aged eight for a local amateur club before being spotted and recruited by Benfica when he was just nine.

Benfica made the modest promise of 25 balls and a bonus to the Aguiasda Musgueira club should Sanches ever turn pro, but their president Antonio da Silva Quadros is still waiting. “We don’t have the balls or the money,” he said.

The club is still seeking its due from Benfica, whilst Sanches is headed for the Bundesliga.

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