Former Bayern Munich assistant Paul Clement feels sorry for Renato Sanches, whom he signed on a season-long loan at Swansea City, saying the player has "the weight of the world on his shoulders."
Clement had hailed Sanches as "one of Europe's elite young talents" when welcoming him to his squad last summer after Swansea agreed to pay Bayern a loan fee of €8.5 million without securing any option to buy the Portugal international at end of his spell in Wales.
But things turned sour for both Sanches and Clement, who was sacked in December with the Welsh side rooted to the bottom of the table, while Sanches has failed to impress in 15 appearances at Swansea so far this season.
Clement had been hoping to build his team around Sanches, whom he worked with during his first six months in Bavaria as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant, before the Englishman left to successfully keep the Welsh side in the Premier League.
"I thought that was a massive coup for us, to attract a player of that level after what he'd done a summer earlier in the Euros," Clement told the Times.
Sanches, 20, won the 2016 Golden Boy award and was voted best young player at Euro 2016, a tournament won by his Portugal side. However, Sanches has struggled to meet expectations at Bayern since his move from Benfica, when Bayern successfully beat competition from Manchester United for his signature.
"I knew it would take some time," Clement said. "I was with him the first six months at Bayern [as assistant to Ancelotti], and he hadn't played regularly.
"His physical condition was down. His confidence was down."
Sanches only started six Bundesliga games last season under Ancelotti, failing to score or provide an assist in 25 appearances in all competitions, while completing 90 minutes on just a single occasion.
Sanches said in the summer he would like to join AC Milan "if the opportunity arose" in a bid to secure more playing time but, using his Bayern connections, Clement successfully managed to lure the 20-year-old to Wales.
"When I called Bayern, [CEO Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge initially said to me, 'There are 10 other clubs in,' and I left it," Clement said, explaining the background behind the deal.
"It was only a couple of weeks later when I spoke to Carlo and asked, 'Have you got any players for me?'
"Tongue in cheek really, and he went, 'Renato Sanches.'
"Bayern really supported it. They thought he was going to a club who played football, and to a coach who would care and give him the attention he needs.
"He wasn't so keen initially. He thought he was going to go to Man United, Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain.
"Bayern were saying, 'You're not going there, it would be the same situation, you're not going to play.'
"When he came, he was far more damaged than I thought. It was really sad. He was a boy who had almost got the weight of the world on his shoulders."
"In training, when that pressure is not there, he was the best player. He could do things no one else could do. He's got power, can go past people, got a shot on him. But then in games, I looked at the choices he was making, shooting from 45 yards on the angle, and he kept making those mistakes.
"He had a desire to please and a desire to prove everybody wrong. He got in a vicious cycle of poor choices. The other players were saying, 'He's playing like that and you're not picking me,' so it became difficult to pick him."
Currently sidelined by injury, Sanches hasn't scored or provided an assist in 12 Premier League games for the Swans, failing to feature since the 2-0 home defeat to Spurs on Jan. 2.