Wonder kid Sanches embroiled in age-fraud controversy

Wonder kid Sanches embroiled in age-fraud controversy

Wonder kid Sanches embroiled in age-fraud controversy

Renato Sanches is being hailed as Portugal's star of the future but the dreadlocked wonder kid is already causing controversy amid the rave reviews.

In doing so Sanches broke Cristiano Ronaldo's record as the youngest ever scorer in the knockout stages of the European Championships. But questions have been asked about whether Sanches is really just 18.

And in more controversy, his former youth club accuse Benfica of failing to pay a promised bonus despite the Portuguese giants cashing in on Sanches's talent by selling him to Bayern Munich last month for 35 million euros ($38 million).

Born in the modest Lisbon suburb of Amadora, his August 18, 1997 date of birth has been questioned by several Portuguese sports pundits and, above all, by the directors of Benfica's age-old rivals Sporting Lisbon. It is a controversy that refuses to go away.

Sanches has even threatened to sue ebullient Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho, who in March called on the Amadora hospital where he was born to clarify once and for all the midfielder's true age.

Carlos Severino, a television commentator and a former candidate for the Sporting presidency, landed in hot water last November when he said Sanches' muscular physique was "very physically developed for his age" and suggested "he must have taken a lot of vitamins".

That description earned Severino an immediate claim for defamation.  The Jornal de Noticias newspaper conducted an investigation with supporting documents claiming the youngster was indeed born on August 18, 1997 at the Amadora-Sintra hospital, but the birth was not registered until August 22, 2002.

The report said Sanches was not even five months old when his father, from the African island of Sao Tome and Principe, separated from his Cape Verdean mother, and emigrated to France. It was not until five years later that his father returned to deal with the registration of his son's birth, which is where the doubts surrounding his age arise.

Affectionately called "Bulo" by his nearest and dearest, Sanches grew up in Musgueira, a densely populated area of northern Lisbon, where he started to play football aged eight for a local amateur club before being spotted and recruited by Benfica when he was just nine.

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