LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal gave a surprise recall to Renato Sanches, the Euro 2016 winner whose career has since nosedived, as they named their squad for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers on Thursday.
The defensive midfielder was a key player when he helped Portugal win the European Championship as an 18-year-old but has struggled to get playing time at Bayern Munich where he moved immediately afterwards from Benfica.
He started only 10 Bundesliga matches in two seasons at Bayern. He went on loan to Swansea City, who were in the English Premier League at the time, but suffered injuries and a loss of confidence. He signed for Ligue 1 club Lille last week.
For many, he has come to symbolise the problems which arise when a promising young player leaves his first club too soon.
“How many players can say at his age that they are European champions,” coach Fernando Santos told a news conference.
“Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t been playing regularly. But he has made an enormous effort and shown an enormous desire to be here.”
There were no surprise exclusions with top players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva and Joao Felix all included.
Portugal, winners of the inaugural Nations League in June, have made a slow start to the qualifiers, drawing their first two Group B games at home to Ukraine and Serbia.
They visit Serbia on Sept. 7 and Lithuania three days later.
Squad: Rui Patricio (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Beto (Goztepe), Jose Sa (Olympiakos)
Defenders: Nelson Semedo (Barcelona), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Pepe (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica), Jose Fonte (Lille), Daniel Carrico (Sevilla), Mario Rui (Napoli), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)
Midfielders: William Carvalho (Betis), Danilo (Porto), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton), Joao Moutinho (Wolverhampton), Renato Sanches (Lille), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting), Pizzi (Benfica)
Forwards: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Podence (Olympiakos), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Rafa Silva (Benfica), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton)
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)