Ivan Perisic's summer arrival at Bayern Munich gives boss Niko Kovac a host of attacking options. - © imago images / ULMER Pressebildagentur
Ivan Perisic's summer arrival at Bayern Munich gives boss Niko Kovac a host of attacking options. - © imago images / ULMER Pressebildagentur
bundesliga

Where will Ivan Perisic play for Bayern Munich?

Ivan Perisic can play wide left, create through the middle, pop up on the right and even lead the front line, not to mention score goals from all those positions - no wonder Bundesliga defenders have a hard time pinning down the Bayern Munich summer signing. 

The ex-Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg man returned to the German top flight last summer after a four-year spell at Inter Milan, joining Bayern on loan.

"He can play anywhere up front," said captain Manuel Neuer, while Joshua Kimmich - before the deal had been done - added, "What you know about him is that he's two-footed. He can play on the left and the right. If he comes, he can make us a bit more flexible."

'Flexible' is the key word. Perisic is the football equivalent of a yoga expert, able to bend his abilities to suit any position on the pitch.

bundesliga.com looks at how Niko Kovac, who coached Perisic while in charge of Croatia between 2013 and 2015, can fit his über-versatile piece into the Bayern puzzle...

Plan A: Alternative to Coman…or with him

Perisic is not a classic left-winger in the same way as Kingsley Coman is. While the Frenchman loves to use his rocket-propelled pace to beat his man on the outside, Perisic was never that player even long before he turned 30.

Bayern's love of an 'inverted winger' — a forward who plays wide on the flank that is opposite to that of his preferred foot — is undoubtedly one of the man reasons Perisic was targetted in the post-Robbery era.

Watch: Perisic's starring role for Bayern vs. Mainz!

His ability to cut inside from the left to shoot at goal with his right foot gives Bayern a potent weapon as well as affording left-back David Alaba the space to roam forward, opening up the possibility for Perisic to pass instead, all of which keeps opponents guessing.

Not that Perisic cannot use his left either if forced outside. For those wishing to argue, please see how he measures the cross for Benjamin Pavard to score Bayern's first in their Matchday 3 demonstration against Mainz. The defence rests.

The Mainz game also showed the Kovac does not necessarily see things as 'Either Kingsley or Ivan'. Both were in the starting line-up with Coman switched to the right to give the Bayern boss yet another mouthwatering permutation.

Kingsley Coman is impossible to stop when in full-flow. - 2019 DFL

Plan B: Philippe, Thomas, Serge & Ivan

"I was also a Plan B," said Kovac, referring to the fact he was not favourite to become Bayern boss when he replaced Jupp Heynckes in summer 2018. "And we won the double."

If the media are to be believed, Perisic was Bayern's back-up plan, activated after Manchester City's Leroy Sane was injured in the Community Shield. But given his pedigree, the 2018 FIFA World Cup runner-up is so much more than an after-thought.

"Ivan can be quite a bit surprise for us, I'm sure of that," said Robert Lewandowski, who first played with Perisic at Dortmund. "He's good with his left, right, good in the air, strong, and dribbles well. Ivan can help us immediately or put pressure on other players in the squad and push them."

A terrifying sight for any Bundesliga defence: Philippe Coutinho (l.), Robert Lewandowski (c.) and Ivan Perisic (r.). - imago images / Jan Huebner

Three players who will be feeling the heat in the competition for places are Philippe Coutinho, Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry. If Perisic is not first-choice in his favourite role on the left, then the abilities Lewandowski clearly has so much admiration for give Kovac enviable options in the other positions behind the Polish icon in Bayern's 4-2-3-1 formation.

Not as flamboyant as Coutinho nor as enigmatically effective as Müller or as athletically powerful as Gnabry, Perisic remains a potent maker as well as taker of goals. He has tallied 17 assists in addition to 28 strikes in 114 Bundesliga outings to date, and teed up almost as many goals as he scored in Serie A: 31 to 37 in 141 appearances.

With form a fickle companion of flair players, Perisic is ideal for Kovac to slot into his line-up in place of either of the three should their standard of play dip - Coutinho or Müller in the middle, Müller or Gnabry on the right - with Bayern's rhythm not skipping a beat.

Plan C: A not-so-false 9

Let's make this clear: no-one can be a like-for-like replacement for Robert Lewandowski. That is the reason Bayern were so keen to get their star striker to sign a contract extension that will likely take the 31-year-old through to the twilight of his career.

But the record German champions have been incredibly fortunate the ex-Lech Poznan man has missed so few matches — just 11 Bundesliga games since moving from Dortmund in 2014 — and though his training regime remains as rigourous as ever, his ageing body will inevitably start to show signs of wear and tear.

Step forward Perisic.

Watch: Perisic's top 5 Bundesliga goals!

Just as Gnabry is an alternative through the middle, so the Bayern newboy could also fill the massive void left by Lewy should injury strike or a rest be required.

Not as physically strong as Lewandowski nor quite as single-minded when it comes to scoring goals, Perisic's vision and intelligence helps make up the shortfall. He can still hold the ball up, bring others into the game, make intelligent runs beyond defenders, and clearly knows where the goal is. His header against Mainz showed just what a threat he can be in the air too. In short, he is Lewy Light.

"I know what he's capable of and what his qualities are," said Kovac. "I'm certain he'll give us what we need." Perisic will, and so much more.