Even in his short 30-minute cameo, Philippe Coutinho’s introduction to life in the Bundesliga gave us a glimpse of what fans of Bayern Munich and the league itself can look forward to this season.
Entering the action midway through the second half of Saturday’s 3-0 win at Schalke, the Brazilian clearly enjoyed his first competitive action this season, making runs into the box, setting up attacks and playing once again with a smile on his face.
“I’m very happy to play my first 30 minutes,” he told reporters at full time at Schalke’s Veltins Arena. “It was amazing. I had been looking forward to my first game and the stadium was full with a good atmosphere. I’m really happy to be in this league.”
There is work to do for Coutinho to get up to speed. He admits his fitness needs to get better – “I want to improve this because I know it’s very intense here” – but just as he was thrilled by his first exposure to the Bundesliga, so too were the Bayern supporters.
The excitement in the away section was clear for all to see as Coutinho prepared to enter the pitch, and there was an unmistakeable electricity when he had the ball.
The fans’ appetites have certainly been whetted and so too are those of his team-mates and even opposition players, with Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt calling his signing “a boon for the Bundesliga”.
His captain Manuel Neuer can’t wait to see more of “The Little Magician” as Coutinho has become known. “He's had two or three training sessions now and a brief appearance today. He's definitely a player who likes to play with the ball. We'll have to see how he is when we don't have the ball, but he wants to work. Of course that's a great signal. We've seen him on the ball a few times today and it's just fun to watch him."
Ivan Perisic, who also came off the bench with Coutinho in the second half at Schalke, went even further: "He's a really nice guy and an even better footballer. In the past ten years, we've seen that he's had a lot of good seasons with Liverpool and Barcelona and I think he'll help us a lot this season."
Watch: Perisic discusses his new Bayern teammate
That appears to be just as well for the Reds, who already trail Dortmund in the title race and have their eyes trained on challenging for the Champions League this term. “This is a big club and we are going to fight for everything. The Champions League is an objective for the team and for me,” said Coutinho, who is yet to lift the trophy.
His first minutes in Germany’s top flight now under his belt, the Brazil international can now concentrate on stepping up his fitness, making himself a regular in Niko Kovac’s team and providing more ammunition for hat-trick hero Robert Lewandowski.
Watch out Europe: this Bayern team’s attacking strength is of the very highest quality indeed.
Matchday 34 highlights!
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Freiburg's last-gasp shot at a top-four finish ultimately faded on a dramatic final day at the BayArena and beyond.
Haaland signs off with a goal to sink Hertha into the play-offs
The Norwegian scored on his final BVB appearance to help beat Hertha, who must now navigate the relegation play-offs.