After officially completing his move to Bayern Munich from Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho gave his first press conference (ticker via TZ) as a Bayern player earlier today. He expressed his excitement to join the club on a one year loan. Having receiving permission from Arjen Robben, Coutinho will wear the number 10 jersey for Die Roten, an iconic number with a tremendous amount of history.
CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge explained how Robben gave his blessing:
Hasan had a conversation with Arjen Robben this morning. We actually had planned not to assign the 10 and 7 as a gesture toward Robben and Ribery. With the number 10, we wanted to show the high estimation with which the club stands behind this transfer, and Arjen had no problem with that at all and views Coutinho as a more than worthy successor.
Coutinho himself explained how several current and former members of Bayern helped persuade him to make the leap to Munich:
I spoke with a few people about Bayern, especially Thiago, who speaks Portuguese. I also spoke with Rafinha and heard a lot of good things from Lucio. They helped me along very much with my transfer.
When asked about positional preferences, Coutinho said that his favorite position to play is the number 10:
Of course it’s up to the coach, but my favorite position is the 10, because I can move around there best.
There is already speculation that his presence in the squad may put playing time in jeopardy for a number of players. Because of Coutinho’s effectiveness in the number 10 role just behind the striker, Thomas Müller’s name has already been touted as one of the players whose minutes could be significantly effected by Coutinho. The Brazilian acknowledges, however, that it’s ultimately up to Niko Kovac where he plays:
Where I’ll play depends on the coach. Last season I was more of a 10, but I’m at the coach’s service in any position. Thomas Müller per se is a fantastic player, who became World Champion in 2014. I’m looking forward to our time together.
Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic emphasized that Coutinho’s flexibility made him extremely attractive:
Philippe is a player who is very flexible on offense. He can play on the left and centrally and thus be the center point of our game. He’ll strengthen the team and give our game a spectacular flourish. ... [He] can play the ball through and set up our forwards and wingers. Moreover, he himself is a threat on goal, so that there is even additional flexibility.
Coutinho’s versatility to play either as a central midfielder, number 10, or a wide attacking midfielder could give Müller some reassurance insofar as his best position is playing just behind Lewandowski in a 4-2-3-1 or a slightly altered 4-3-3. But the Raumdeuter will still likely have to work even harder to maintain his spot in the starting eleven. but it will ultimately be up to Kovac, who’ll have to choose where Coutinho can be best utilized; as a winger, a number 10, or perhaps as an 8, i.e. a deeper-lying central midfielder.
Rummenigge moreover does not rule out that Coutinho could become a permanent member of the team. He said,
We have a unilateral purchase option by a certain date. We have received an outstanding player, and I will not rule out that it could become a long-term partnership.
It was Rummenigge and Salihamidzic themselves who traveled to Barcelona to meet with Coutinho, his wife, and his agent. Rummenigge credited Bayern’s excellent relations with Barcelona for the very low loan fee of €8.5 million for a player who was the third-most-expensive transfer of all time (ca. €135m in 2018):
8.5 million is also something of a friendship’s price. Uli Hoeness and I have known the front office of Barcelona for a long time, and there are few clubs with which we have such a good relationship.