The press conference following the Bundesliga opener against Hertha Berlin on Friday wasn’t all about the 2-2 draw that Bayern had just played out at the Allianz Arena. If the fans were disappointed with the dropped points, then they were about to be cheered up- Bayern had signed Philippe Coutinho.
“I can confirm that Hasan [Salihamidzic] and I were in Barcelona last Wednesday and reached agreement with FC Barcelona and the player. We’ve watched Coutinho for quite some time. The name doesn’t matter, only the quality,” CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge announced.
“I’d like to thank FC Barcelona. Obviously we still have to finalise a few details, but we’re delighted to be bringing this player to FC Bayern,” sporting director Salihamidzic added.
Whatever you say about Bayern, they rarely fail to provide talking points and their transfer dealings this summer have certainly done that. Their public pursuit of Leroy Sane ultimately proved fruitless when the Manchester City winger injured his knee, and they entered a frantic period of searching for adequate alternatives to bolster their attacking options.
Plenty of names were bandied around before Ivan Perisic was announced as a new arrival. The news of Coutinho’s loan signing however takes things to another level for Bayern.
The Little Magician
Aside from Neymar, 27-year-old Brazilian Countinho was the world’s second most expensive player following his €145 million move from Liverpool to Barcelona in January 2018 (some estimates claim that it could have risen to €160 million). Spanish newspaper El Pais report that the German champions are paying a €20 million loan fee to the Catalan giants with the option to buy next season, while others claim it is as little as €8.5 million.
Make no mistake, Bayern are signing a world class player, who would walk into any side in the world- except for Barcelona it seems, which is the reason Bayern have managed to snap him up. After starting life at the Not Camp superbly with 8 goals and 5 assists in his first 18 games, Coutinho suffered a muscle injury last season, which he struggled to return from.
He lost his starting place, a bit of confidence and the love of the Barcelona fans. Barca made a bit of a mistake in announcing Coutinho as the heir to Andres Iniesta, as this was never going to be the case. When he failed to be Iniesta, the fans were unimpressed. Countinho however is more a player in the Lionel Messi style and he again was never going to replace him.
When Coutinho showed the fans his displeasure at their criticism of him by sticking his fingers in his ears when celebrating a Champions League goal against Manchester United, the writing was on the wall for an exit.
Der Kleine Zauberer
So how will the Little Magician fit into the Bayern system?
Missing out on Sane may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise for Bayern as Coutinho gives them many more options. Whereas Sane is your typical winger, Coutinho is more flexible and his style fits perfectly into Niko Kovac’s vertical system.
He can play out wide on the left (the position he excelled at during his time at Liverpool), but he won’t be the touchline-hugging winger, who waits for the ball before breaking forward. He will go looking for the ball and move inside rather than heading for the byeline. For out-and-out wingers in the Robben/Ribéry style, Bayern have Coman and Gnabry.
Coman’s injury record however means Coutinho is an option should he be required. He is not as fast as Coman, but neither is he a slouch. His ability to drag defenders out of position is excellent, as is his long-range shooting.
When Brazil won the Copa America in the summer, Coutinho was deployed as the classic number 10, behind the striker and this is a role he could find himself in at Bayern- pulling the strings behind Robert Lewandowski.
Against Hertha Berlin on matchday 1, it was apparent that Bayern lacked that creative genius able to unlock a deep-lying defence with a clever pass- Coutinho is that player.
In theory Coutinho could also be dropped into a deeper role to play alongside Thiago as a number 6, where his superb passing would compliment the former Barcelona midfielder and still allow two ‘proper’ wingers to feed Lewandowski.
“In my opinion, not only FC Bayern Munich, but also the entire Bundesliga and the whole of Germany can be delighted to be welcoming such a big-name player to our league” coach Niko Kovac said on Friday.
Prepare to be dazzled.
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