Robert Lewandowski has no doubts that Phillipe Coutinho will settle in at Bayern Munich without any issues.
The German champions confirmed last night that they had reached an agreement with Barcelona over the loan signing of the diminutive Brazilian.
What went wrong for Coutinho at Barcelona? Five things to know…
- Coutinho’s January 2018 transfer to Barcelona (€142m) made him the second-most expensive player of all time.
- The midfielder remained a consistent fixture in the Barcelona team last season but managed five goals and two assists in La Liga.
- Barcelona spent over £105m to sign Antoine Griezmann this summer and are rumoured to be pursuing Neymar.
- In mid-July, Coutinho’s agent accused certain Barcelona staff of fuelling talk of a transfer away among the media.
- The Bayern deal is a season-long loan with an option to buy.
Speaking following Bayern’s disappointing 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin, Lewandowski was full of praise for his new teammate.
Lewandowski, who scored twice in the Bundesliga opener, said: “I don’t think he’ll need that much time to adapt to our system and ideas.
“I think he’s the sort of player that can settle in without many problems.”
One Bayern player, however, was less positive.
The 2016 Golden Boy winner, Renato Sanches, has made it clear to the Bayern hierarchy that he believes his future lies elsewhere. Following a disappointing loan spell at Swansea which ended in relegation, the midfielder was a bit-part player last campaign, making just 17 league appearances.
He told the media: “Of course I’m disappointed, it’s the second time the club has not let me go, five minutes is not enough for me.”
The arrival of Coutinho will likely see Sanches move further down the pecking order in a squad where he is far from preferred already. At just 21 years of age, the Portuguese is entering a key stage in his career and sitting on the bench week in week out – which he is likely to do if a loan move does not materialise – will simply frustrate Sanches further.
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Despite an underwhelming league campaign, no one can doubt Coutinho’s natural ability. He registered three goals and three assists in the Champions League last season – more combined goal contributions than Sadio Mane, Heung-Min Son and Roberto Firmino.
The speed with which his stock has declined appears even odder given his outstanding 2017/18 season. Playing one half of the campaign in England and the other in Spain, Coutinho amassed 15 goals and 11 assists in league competition and 22 goals overall.
He scored six in six in the Champions League group-stage games for Liverpool, including a hat-trick away in Moscow. Following his move to Catalonia, the Brazilian got eight goals and five assists in 18 appearances; after recovering from a hamstring injury, he played in all 18 games of Barcelona’s run-in.
Coutinho should be entering the prime years of his career and, with Robben and Ribery both leaving Bayern, space has opened up for a mercurial midfielder to take up the creative mantle.