With Thiago helping him to settle in and Robert Lewandowski gifting him his first goal, there's no wonder Bayern Munich feels like family for Philippe Coutinho.
Since moving to Bavaria in August, on an initial season-long loan from Barcelona, the 27-year-old former Inter Milan and Liverpool star has had a smile on his face.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com Coutinho talks about feeling like a family with Bayern after moments like those against Cologne on Matchday 5, when he was gifted his first goal by Lewandowski, with the Pole on a hat-trick...
bundesliga.com: Philippe, you've played in Spain, England and Italy. How are you finding things in Germany so far in comparison?
Philippe Coutinho: "I've seen already that people are very open and willing to talk. The people here in Germany are very fair and honest. The city is very beautiful. I stayed at a hotel for a while in the city center. My family and I occasionally went for walks and I was able to get to know the city. I'm really enjoying it. I am certainly enjoying the city a lot and the people as well.”
bundesliga.com: How has settling in at Bayern been for you over the last month since your arrival?
Coutinho: "Thiago helped me a lot with the language. He's helped me every day on and off the field. Everyone gave us a great welcome -the people inside the club, the fans, the players and the staff. Everyone welcomed us warmly. It was exactly the same experience for Ivan [Perisic] and Mica [Cuisance]. We felt very welcome here. In turn, that makes us feel very comfortable. I think that's the principle of the club. It feels like a family.”
Watch: Coutinho's first goal for Bayern!
bundesliga.com: What are your impressions of the Bundesliga so far? Is it one of the most difficult leagues you have played in?
Coutinho: “I think that the Bundesliga is very similar to the Premier League in terms of the intensity of the games. The matches are always very even. Every team fights until the very end, for every single ball. Every ball is war. This makes the games very intense. There is not much space to think or to hesitate on the ball. Whereas in La Liga, teams tend to play more defensively against Barcelona. They gave us more space to play, but it was hard to break the defence down. These are the main differences that I have experienced. I think the Bundesliga is very similar to the Premier League in terms of intensity.”
bundesliga.com: You scored your first goal in the Bundesliga on Matchday 5 against Cologne. How did it feel to get off the mark?
Coutinho: "It's a great feeling when you score your first goal, in this jersey for this club, and in front of these fans."
bundesliga.com: There was a special story behind your first goal. Lewandowski could have completed his hat-trick, but he gave you the chance to score your first goal with a penalty...
Coutinho: "For sure it was a great gesture. Lewy had the chance for a hat-trick. Everyone knows how special it is to score a hat-trick. He had the
opportunity to do so and he's the designated penalty taker, but he gave me the opportunity to score my first goal in front of our fans. It was certainly a very special moment and I was able to score – I was very happy and
bundesliga.com: Who do you think are Bayern's title rivals this season?
Coutinho: “It is too early to talk about that – the league has only just started. All of the teams I've faced so far, and all of the games I've played in have been very intense. The title race will go down to the wire, that’s for sure. It will be a tough battle, I believe. But we have to prepare well for every game – building, improving and evolving. In the end, if things go well, we'll be in the fight for the title. But it's difficult to talk about specific opponents at the start of the season because there is still a long way to go.”
Watch: Coutinho setting in at Bayern
bundesliga.com: The fans and the club have high hopes of you, the media is focused on you. How do you cope with that and what are your own expectations?
Coutinho: “I also have high expectations for this year and hope to have a great season with my teammates. I consider this to be a positive thing. Everyone here wants to be successful and the fans are always supportive. The whole staff do a fantastic job with video analysis and analytical work to make things easier for us on the pitch. So I'm very happy and I have high expectations just like everyone else.”
bundesliga.com: How excited are you to face Dortmund in ‘Der Klassiker’ on Matchday 11?
Coutinho: “It'll be special, for sure. As it always is. I played against Dortmund twice when I was at Liverpool. They were very intense games. It'll be special when the time comes.”
bundesliga.com: Oktoberfest started last Saturday and you've already been given a pair of Lederhosen. Do you like them?
Coutinho: “I liked them, I thought they suited me well. It was very cool and my wife liked them too. It's a very traditional event here, so I was happy to be here and to be part of the city and the country’s festivities. I think everyone who comes and participates ends up enjoying it.”
bundesliga.com: You have a number of tattoos of your family, is that true?
Coutinho: “I have the name of my daughter, my other daughter, the name of my wife, the name of my brothers and of my parents. I need to get a tattoo of the name of my daughter, Esmeralda, here – she's eight months old.”
bundesliga.com: Have you endured any difficult periods in your career? If yes, when and why did they occur and how did it feel?
Coutinho: “When you move to a different country. For example, when I went to Inter, I was 17 or 18 years old. You leave a place that's familiar to you. For 18 years of your life, you've lived with your parents and friends and so getting used to a new place with a different culture is not easy. That was a difficult period – arriving at a new club, learning a new language.
"Also having to play with people who were already established professional footballers where I had just started out. I had only just started at Vasco and had recently turned professional. It was a difficult period. My parents and my wife, she was my girlfriend at the time, also came with me. And they certainly helped me a lot. It would have been impossible if I'd been alone. We face other difficulties too. Sometimes you don’t have a very good year. People talk about you a lot and you have to stay mentally strong. That’s not easy. My family are very supportive and helped me to stay mentally strong in those difficult periods.”
bundesliga.com: How important has former manager Jürgen Klopp been in your development as a player? How did he help you?
Coutinho: “Klopp – I have no words to say. He's a great coach and is exceptional at what he does. I spent a very enjoyable period of my life with him, and I was able to learn a lot. He always pays attention to the very fine details. But his main strength is that he's extremely focused and has been able to transform the club that he is with today. It's all about the mentality, and always staying completely focused. That's something I'll always carry with me. It was very important.”