KLAGENFURT, Austria — Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac praised Renato Sanches performance in the German champions 3-1 comeback victory over Paris Saint-Germain, claiming the Portuguese prodigy is “unfreezing” under his tutelage.
First-year Bayern boss Kovac said there were definite signs Sanches was playing with more freedom since he took over in July from the retiring Jupp Heynckes.
“I’m pleased for Renato who hasn’t had an easy time here in Munich,” he said. “But I saw immediately on my first day he’s got a great body language. He’s a top-quality player and I notice him unfreezing a little,” he said at the postmatch news conference.
U.S international Timothy Weah put Thomas Tuchel’s side ahead just after the half hour mark, but goals from Javi Martinez, Sanches and Joshua Zirkzee completed Bayern’s fightback and Kovac praised the Portugal international after the match.
“If he has the necessary self-confidence he knows what he is capable of,” Kovac said. “When you give him the necessary self confidence and recognition, then you can always perform well and his free kick was exceptional.
“We practised free kicks in our final training yesterday and all of his went in and he also managed it today.”
Sanches, 20, was voted best young player at Euro 2016 as Portugal won the tournament, before Bayern beat Manchester United to sign him from Benfica for an initial €35 million. This transfer fee could have eventually risen to €80m with add-ons.
However, Sanches only started six Bundesliga games under Carlo Ancelotti in his 2016-17 debut season, failing to score or provide an assist in 25 appearances in all competitions, while completing 90 minutes on just a single occasion.
Sanches endured another bad season on loan at relegated Premier League side Swansea City last term, failing to score or provide an assist in 15 appearances. He didn’t feature at all since the end of January after struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.
But Sanches has taken full advantage of Kovac’s trust and made an instant impression in Bayern’s ICC-opening victory.
Aside from Sanches’ performance, Kovac was upbeat about his team’s outing and complimented his younger players on tour with the team.
“I think the game fulfilled its purpose,” Kovac said. “After three weeks we had our first test against a very good team especially in the first half. But I think my team played very well over the 90 minutes.
“We made a few adjustments in the dressing room at half-time, modifying our tactics and didn’t allow PSG so much space than we did in the first half.
“Everyone did their job extraordinarily well, especially the younger players from the U19 and U23 performed well. Compliments to them.”
Meanwhile, Kovac said he expects Jerome Boateng, who has been linked with a move away from the club, to stay at Bayern, while adding that Arturo Vidal was left out of the U.S. tour because he wasn’t fit enough to make the trip.