Former Benfica starlet Renato Sanches has been chosen by Italian publication Tuttosport to receive the prestigious Golden Boy award, an annual prize bestowed upon the best player under the age of 21 in the whole of Europe. Filipe Amante tells us more.

The 19-year old received the prestigious award in Monte Carlo this Monday evening, after his remarkable performances last season for Benfica, where he was an instrumental part of the three-time Portuguese champions’ midfield, and his national team, who he helped to win their first international competition at Euro 2016.

The Lisbon-born youngster was in top form during his breakthrough season at Benfica, scoring some crucial goals and putting in some really solid performances in midfield despite his tender years. His strength, drive and stamina put him on the radar of several top European clubs, and German giants Bayern Munich were only too happy to splash the cash on the talented box-to-box midfielder. They beat the likes of Manchester United to his signature, much to the disappointment of Ryan Giggs and José Mourinho.

In France, Renato became the youngest player to represent Portugal at a major tournament, the youngest player to score in a knockout game at a European Championship, the youngest player to appear in the final, and the youngest ever champion. He received two man-of-the-match awards, against Croatia and Poland, and was crowned Young Player of the Tournament.

Sanches joined Bayern in July for a whopping €35 million (plus future incentives). Thus far he has made eight appearances for the Bavarians, including four starts, although he has yet to complete ninety minutes.

Renato is the first Portuguese player to receive the renowned Golden Boy trophy, which Tuttosport began awarding back in 2003. It is also recognition of the work done by the Seixal academy and the Benfica Lab, a conveyor belt of young Portuguese talent whose latest graduates include Gonçalo Guedes, Nélson Semedo and 17-year old José Gomes.

Earlier on Monday, Renato gave the following reaction to the news of his latest award.

“I am over the moon. This is an award of great importance in the footballing world. Nevertheless I have to keep my feet on the ground and I am aware that there is a lot for me to learn, especially from my talented team-mates such as [Arturo] Vidal, Xabi [Alonso], Thiago [Alcantara] and [Joshua] Kimmich. I dedicate this award to my family."

Previous Golden Boy winners:
2003 – Rafael van der Vaart (Ajax)
2004 – Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd)
2005 – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
2006 – Cesc Fàbregas (Barcelona)
2007 – Sergio Agüero (Atletico Madrid)
2008 – Anderson (Manchester Utd)
2009 – Alexandre Pato (Milan)
2010 – Mario Balotelli (Manchester City)
2011 – Mario Götze (Borussia Dortmund)
2012 – Isco (Malaga)
2013 – Paul Pogba (Juventus)
2014 – Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
2015 – Anthony Martial (Manchester Utd)
2016 – Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich)