The Portuguese was part of a Benfica side that stormed to a league title and a Portugal side that triumphed at the Euros this year, earning a €35m move to Bayern as a result.
Rashford, despite rising to international stardom from relative anonymity in the space of a few months, was unable to finish above Sanches.
Sanches’ triumph over Rashford in this instance is, I believe, entirely down to what the 19-year-old has to show for his endeavours. A league title and a major international trophy, alongside a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs, does – let’s face it – outstrip what Rashford has achieved.
But such a view fails to examine the bigger picture. Rashford, after all, was eased into first team much later than Sanches (the Portuguese made his first team debut sixteen months earlier than Rashford), into a team bereft of confidence, in a far more challenging environment.
The youngster, whilst unable to compare with Sanches when it comes to major honours, eclipses him in terms of goals scored (Rashford has 13 goals in 30 games for club and country, emphatically outstripping Sanches’ total of six in 88 appearances).
More importantly, though, the 18-year-old’s ability to exert a game-changing, pendulum-swinging impact – as shown on a regular basis, most notably against Manchester City, Arsenal and Hull City – is what makes him truly special, and perhaps more befitting of this award than the Portuguese.