In an interview with AZ, former Bayern star and current brand ambassador Giovane Elber lavished effusive praise on his compatriot Philippe Coutinho, whose budding tenure with Bayern Munich has had its ups and downs. Elber said,
It’s crazy how well the boy can play football. Of course, we know that already, but it’s impressive to see him on the pitch for Bayern. He plays differently from James Rodríguez. Coutinho has this lightness and always tries to play directly — quickly with double passes — and to use the other players.
It’s interesting that Elber made the differentiation from James Rodriguez, who famously had an up-and-down stint in Munich as well. Elber clearly believes Coutinho’s more direct style will mesh better with the team’s overall philosophy on the field. Speaking of immersing himself in the Bayern club culture, Elber added:
I have now spoken with him for the first time. He told me: “Giovane, I want to learn German!” That’s important, even if he speaks English well. He told me that the team had welcomed him very warmly. Coutinho is a good boy.
Coutinho is on a one-year loan from FC Barcelona with an exclusive purchase option that is priced so high (€120m) that many assume Bayern will not pay it. If this is really a one-year rental, why take the time to learn German? Perhaps Coutinho is only blowing smoke. He would hardly be the first professional athlete to feign interest in his club’s culture; it happens all the time. But he might also see a bleak future back at his home club and wants to put his best foot forward to convince the Bayern board to pull the trigger to make this a full time gig. This is essentially a year-long job interview, and the best thing anyone in that situation can do is make the board’s decision as difficult as possible. Elber said,
You have to give him time. Then he’ll show that he can be very important and stay long. Of course, it would have been nice if everything had worked out right from the start. The first games were really good. The most important thing is that he has already connected here in Munich.
As with everything in life, good things come to those who wait. It’s a long season and there is plenty of soccer left to play and chances aplenty for Coutinho to prove his quality. The most important of them will come in the Champions League. When asked whether Coutinho can become a decisive player in the Champions League, Elber, who was instrumental in Bayern’s 2001 Champions League crown, had this to say:
He can do it. I think his cooperation with Lewandowski will be even better; it just takes time. Coutinho is a genius.