Where does Philippe Coutinho fit at Bayern?
Background photo: Malte Buschmann, CC BY-SA 2.0
Loyalty was once a key part of football. That now seems a thing of the past. When Liverpool signed Philippe Coutinho from Internazionale, the midfielder quickly established himself as a fans-favourite. The Brazilian was on track to becoming a club legend. Then, his head got turned by Barcelona. Only 19 months after switching to Camp Nou, he's moved again.
With Barca keen on bringing back Neymar and having already signed Antoine Griezmann, Coutinho was deemed surplus to requirements. He joined Bayern Munich on a season-long loan three days ago. From being Liverpool's star attraction to a Blaugrana reject in such a short space of time is a gigantic fall.
As a new chapter begins, Coutinho must ensure he becomes a key player in Bayern's set up, not one who can be easily thrown around. For that to happen, his style has to fit every system which the Bavarians opt to deploy.
Coutinho mostly played as a left-sided attacker at Barca, a role which showcased several dimensions of his game. He scored 21 goals and provided 11 assists in 76 matches. His potential is far greater. Bayern are covered on the wings, anyway. Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and Ivan Perisic fight it out for two spots.
The Coutinho who cost Barcelona £142 million was revered for playing centrally at Liverpool. He enjoys the traditional number 10 role, from which his creativity and scoring exploit both come to the fore.
Coutinho's decision to join Bayern gives him an opportunity to return to his best position. Playing just off Robert Lewandowski, he can take advantage of any space to either feed the Pole or aim to ripple the net himself.
At Copa America 2019, Coutinho shone for Brazil centrally. He had fans loving him again. The German champions must take note. With limited options in that position beside in-decline Thomas Muller, the Rio de Janeiro-born can prove his worth and hold down this role for the whole season.
Another position Coutinho has previously thrived is in central midfield. He played there when first moving to Liverpool. As a box-to-box player, the 27-year-old can play alongside Thiago Alcantara, a midfielder who controls possession and pops up in dangerous areas. That formidable partnership would allow Bayern to go all-out attack.
Doing so will also help bring out the best in others. Coman, Gnabry and Perisic will have a continuous supply from central areas, enabling them to cause havoc up-front along with Lewandowski. This way, although Coutinho won't be able to use his accurate, curling shots as often, he'll flourish as a creator.
Wherever he is deployed, should Coutinho shine, the Bavarians must request for his loan to be made permanent. He will become key to how they play, rediscovering Liverpool form and putting Barcelona troubles aside.
Bayern have got a complete midfielder. Coutinho has an opportunity to reignite his career. He has much to offer in both their Bundesliga and Champions League challenge. Few can seemingly see it right now but this deal is a win-win for both parties.