Philippe Coutinho may already have justified his nickname as ‘The Magician’ in his short time at Bayern Munich, but interim head coach Hansi Flick insists he will continue to give the Brazilian playmaker time to settle in Bavaria.
Coutinho arrived on a season-long loan from Barcelona in mid-August and has hit the ground running at the Allianz Arena, providing three goals and three assists in 11 Bundesliga appearances for the club so far in 2019/20.
As impressive as that is, the fact he missed a large portion of pre-season training due to his Copa America triumph with Brazil in July, plus the inevitable difficulties that come with adapting to a new country, club and language at Bayern, mean he is still working towards hitting top form.
“We’re well aware of the quality he has,” Flick said ahead of Bayern’s Matchday 13 encounter at home to Bayer Leverkusen. “Sometimes it’s really useful when you give someone a bit of time. He wasn’t able to take part in full pre-season training and when he joined us he hadn’t done a lot of training. He just needs to be given time.”
The prospect of Coutinho getting even better when fully settled is likely to give Bundesliga defenders nightmares, especially as Flick appears to be bringing out the best in him in an attacking role on the left-hand side of midfield, rather than as a central playmaker.
“At Liverpool he played on the left side of attacking midfield, which is exactly where he’s playing for us too,” Flick said, having started Coutinho in that very role in Bayern’s last two competitive games.
“It’s important that he can play to his strengths, namely his technical quality, going one-on-one with opponents, playing the final ball and also going for goal himself. Those things are important for us.
“He played well against Fortuna Düsseldorf [on Matchday 12], scored a goal and helped set up another, and he also got two assists in [the UEFA Champions League win in] Belgrade. I’m happy with him.”