Liverpool made their intentions abundantly clear from early March that Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk and RB Leipzig’s Naby Keïta topped their list of transfer targets this summer.
Links to other players haven’t been scarce by any means but by revealing the club's targets so early on, the rumour mill hasn't been so relentless for the Reds.
For example, there hasn’t been a new centre-midfielder named as a target every other day, and those who are mentioned are easy to rule out if they don’t possess a similar profile to the Leipzig box-to-box midfielder.
So when reports emerged that the Reds were to target Sergej Milinković-Savić, Leon Goretzka and Jean Michael Seri, they made sense, at least on a certain levels. All had traits and strengths which made it easy to see them operating at the heart of a Jurgen Klopp midfield.
But, with Keita being the measuring stick, it wasn’t difficult to find reasons why those linked might not be signed.
Lazio want €66million for Milinković-Savić, Goretzka wouldn’t be cheap despite having just the year left on his contract with Schalke and Seri, at 26, doesn’t have as much room to develop as the others.
Furthermore, none of these players were the club’s first-choice and there’s no point buying for the sake of it.
Combine those reasons with the fact various reports claim Liverpool will continue their pursuit of Keita into next summer, when the Guinean international has a £45million release clause, and it paints a picture of a short-term signing this month – that is if the Reds delve back into the transfer market at all.
It wasn’t until rumours surfaced in SportsBild claiming Liverpool were interested in Renato Sanches that there was finally an alternative to Keita who ticked a number of boxes.
The Sanches Hype Train
The Portuguese midfielder, still only 19-years-old, has the quality to impact the now but doesn't come with the ego to demand a start.
And with Bayern Munich prepared to loan the former Benfica man out, he’d be an ideal short-term solution to plug the gap until the Reds returned for Keita.
Sanches, for his part, has already confirmed he wants to leave the club this summer to play more first-team football.
“I’m not satisfied,” Sanches told SportsBild. “Of course, I would like to play more that’s why I want to change and go to a club where I would play more.”
This got tongues wagging. AC Milan made their interest known but it soon emerged that Sanches was a top transfer target for Chelsea. He put in a man of the match display against the Premier League champions during a pre-season friendly in July.
However, that move hasn't panned out and Antonio Conte has since turned his gaze to Leicester City midfielder Daniel Drinkwater following on from the sale of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United.
Bayern remain adamant that Sanches will only leave the Allianz Arena on loan.
Speaking to respected Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, the Bundesliga club’s chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, said: “There are at least ten teams after Sanches. Conte asked for some information about him after Tuesday’s match because he knows he can make the difference on the pitch.
“[Carlo] Ancelotti was pleased with his performance against Chelsea so we can make some reasoning on him later. Almost certainly we’ll let him leave just on loan, we still count on him.”
It's been quite the fall from grace for Sanches since his €35million move to Germany last summer.
After a storming season with league champions Benfica, he went to the Euros with Portugal and his performances result in him winning the Young Player of the Tournament award.
Many expected his combination of immense physical strength and technical ability to enable Sanches to shine in Germany, but he failed to cement a regular starting berth in Ancelotti’s side.
In the end he made a mere six league starts and 11 substitute outings. He also appeared six times in the Champions League, but on just two of those occasions was he present in the starting line-up.
He was dropped from the Portuguese national team and instead went to play at the Under-21 European Championships this summer.
Some are already writing him off but he's still a teenager and inconsistency is to be expected. He's not been Space Jammed and the talent is still there.
On top of that, too, he's not the first star-in-waiting to struggle at Bayern. Others, including one-time Liverpool transfer target Mario Götze, have found it difficult to realise their potential in such a high-pressure, success-oriented environment.
Worth The Gamble For Liverpool
As shown in pre-season, the Reds have a strong core of 13/14 players but beyond that the quality is lacking. Their pursuit of Keïta wasn't just because he's a unique talent but because midfield is an area that needs strengthening.
The RB Leipzig man is robust, positive in possession and incisive with his choice of passes. His ability to carry the ball forward from deeper areas is no doubt one of the many reasons he appeals to Klopp.
Keïta shares those traits with Sanches. The former is a dribbler and completed 1.5 per 90 minutes last season. For context, it's not as many as the RB Leipzig man (2.7) but it's more than any Liverpool player barring Barcelona transfer target Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.
From that stat alone you can see what he'd bring to the Reds' midfield. He drives the team forward with powerful runs, can pick a pass and is diligent in his defensive play.
He's not a goal threat, having scored just the two goals for both Benfica and Bayern, but with Liverpool having goals spread throughout their team they wouldn't be reliant on him, it's just be a bonus.
Sanches is elegant and puts in performances you'd expect from players ten years his senior. His matured approach could, with the right players around him, see him dictate the tempo of a match.
He's not naive to believe he warrants a start every single match but, with there being an increase in fixtures for Klopp's men next season, there's more than a fair share to go around.
Sanches is in the same boat as Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge when they arrived at Anfield. He's undervalued, under appreciated and has a point to prove. If Liverpool can harness that ability then it can only be a positive for the Reds.
If the Reds are adamant that they need midfield reinforcements but want to wait for Keïta then Sanches, on loan, is a no-brainer.