There have been many great success stories to come out of the first two years of the Durban Under-19 International Football Tournament, but none more so than new Portugal rising star Renato Sanches.
It was not so long ago that Sanches was showing off his skills for then club side Benfica in Durban. The midfielder, who featured in the inaugural Durban Under-19 International Football Tournament in 2014 and helped Benfica into the final, where they would eventually lose to Brazilian side Santos, won the UEFA UERO 2016 tournament in France recently.
Sanches showed then when he was a part of Benfica that he was a star in the making, with his powerful physique, electric pace and rocket shot.
He was already a junior international for Portugal when he played in Durban, and after a fine season with the Benfica ‘B’ side in 2014/15, he was thrust into the first team the following campaign.
Sanches, who was born in Lisbon to a father from São Tomé and Príncipe and a mother from the Cape Verde Islands, did not disappoint as he put in a number of remarkable displays that have led to German Bundesliga giants splashing out an initial fee of €35-million (R566-million) for his services, though that figure could rise as high as €80-million (R1.3-billion) depending on his achievements at the club.
Bayern won the race for his signature that included a number of other top European clubs, including Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
“Manchester United made an offer. I think it was well known. But I had other offers as well,” he told reporters. “I chose Bayern Munich because it’s a great club. They have a 65,000-seater stadium and an atmosphere similar to Benfica. I’ll win titles.”
And the confident 18-year-old is looking forward to achieving great things in Germany.
“I’m looking forward to Bayern and Bayern should be looking forward to me,” Sanches told Sport Bild. “I have some big objectives. I want to win titles with Bayern. I want to help my new team to success right away.
I am proud that I will soon be playing for Bayern, a club with a huge tradition in Europe. I want to keep doing at Bayern what I did at Benfica. I was a key player at Benfica.”
It seems certain that Sanches is going to go on to achieve great things in his career for both club and country.
And when he reflects on it all after his career is finished, he may well be thankful for the grounding he got at the Durban Under-19 International Football Tournament right at the start.
His home country Portugal, took on the hosts France in the UERO 2016 final on 10 July where they won the momentous Championship title with a score line of 1-0 at extra time.
The wonder Kid who has recently broken Christiano Ronaldo’s record of youngest player to participate in the UEFA UERO 2016 tournament™. He also went on to be celebrated as the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championship final, when he started for his country at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.
Having been Man of the Match when Benfica played Roma on 02 August 2014 at Princess Magogo Stadium, in KwaMashu, Durban, Sanches is just the first of what will be many global greats to come through the competition in South Africa, which is currently preparing for the tournaments third year.
The field in 2016 again has eight teams split into two pools of four teams each.
Group A features Lamontville Golden Arrows (South Africa), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Arsenal (England) and the KwaZulu-Natal Academy XI (South Africa).
Group B contains TP Mazembe (DR Congo), Fluminense (Brazil), the South African Under-19 side and Glasgow Rangers (Scotland).
The top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinals, which will both be played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on August 4.
The final will be staged at the King Zwelithini Stadium on August 6 at 16h45.
Brazilian side Santos won the inaugural event in 2014, before Arsenal claimed the title last year and are back in 2016 to defend their trophy.