Bayern Munich star Renato Sanches has become the first Portuguese football player to win the Golden Boy award, handed out annually to the best under-21 footballer in Europe.
Sanches is just 19 years old and a year ago had not even played his first game for SL Benfica, the club where he spent most of his youth.
Today, he is widely considered one of the world’s most promising footballers, having moved from Benfica to German giant Bayern Munich in a €35 million deal after winning the Portuguese championship with the ‘Eagles’ and the Euro 2016 with the Portuguese national team.
This latest accolade is the cherry on the cake for Sanches.
“I’m beaming, this award has a global significance,” Sanches told Tuttosport, the Italian newspaper that hands out the award.
“But I am down to earth. I have much to learn mainly from my fantastic teammates such as Vidal, Xabi, Tiago and Kimmich. I dedicate the Golden Boy to my family. The Champions League? Bayern will win, there is no debate: we are the strongest team on the planet.”
The teen midfielder will receive the trophy at a ceremony this Monday (October 24) in Monte Carlo, though the newspaper always announces the winner beforehand.
Runners-up included Manchester United’s wonder kid Marcus Rashford and Sanches’ Bayern Munich teammate Kingsley Coman.
Another Portuguese wonder kid, Gonçalo Guedes, had also been shortlisted.
The significance of the award is even larger considering that Portugal’s biggest football star, Cristiano Ronaldo, never won the Golden Boy award. He finished runner-up behind Wayne Rooney in 2004.
Other winners include Rafael van der Vaart, Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Aguero, Anderson, Alexandre Pato, Mario Balotelli, Mario Gotze, Isco, Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and Anthony Martial.