Ivan the Great: Ivan Perisic has made a telling contribution from the Bayern Munich left in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds. - © DFL
Ivan the Great: Ivan Perisic has made a telling contribution from the Bayern Munich left in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds. - © DFL
bundesliga

Ivan Perisic: Why the Inter Milan loanee deserves his place in the Bayern Munich starting line-up

If Robert Lewandowski is the rock anthem that keeps on giving, Thomas Müller the Indie pop classic and Alphonso Davies the very best of euphoric dance, Ivan Perisic has to be the alternative soundtrack Bayern Munich cannot do without.

So much more than an unsung B-side, Perisic has started Bayern's last three UEFA Champions League knockout matches.

The 31-year-old forward scored in the last-16 second leg against Chelsea and the quarter-final rout of Barcelona, and despite the best efforts of Kingsley Coman and Philippe Coutinho, retained his place on the left-hand side of the attack in the last four. Bayern's rhythm did not skip a beat.

The record champions ran out 3-0 winners over Lyon to set up a winner-takes-all showdown with Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon on 23 August. There is ample reason to suggest it will not be Perisic's final flourish in a Bayern shirt.

"It must be said that he had a good season," commented Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after Perisic scored his third Champions League goal of 2019/20 against Barcelona.

"His performances have been consistent, and while he doesn't necessarily do anything spectacular, statistically he provides goals and assists. That's why the coach knows he can count on him. We both like him a lot."

Perisic's 18 starts in 34 first-team appearances in 2019/20 are perhaps indicative of the back-up role he was projected to play when making the switch to Munich in summer 2019.

Joining the club at the start of the post-Robbery era - Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery having defined an unprecedented period of Bayern dominance prior to their respective retirement and departure - Perisic already had Coman and Serge Gnabry ahead of him in the pecking order.

'Gnabman' had made the wide positions their own during Bayern's 2018/19 domestic double-winning campaign under Niko Kovac, whose hand was also strengthened in the close season by the arrival of Coutinho on a season-long loan from Barcelona.

Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and Philippe Coutinho provide the competition for Perisic (c.) on the Bayern flanks. - imago

Perisic has never been as athletic as the Comans and Gnabrys of this world or as flamboyant as Coutinho, but there is no arguing with his end product.

The Croatia international tallied 17 assists in addition to 28 strikes in 114 Bundesliga outings for Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg prior to his Bayern move. He also teed up almost as many goals as he scored in Serie A with Inter: 31 to 37 in 141 games.

True to form, Perisic has proved himself to be just as potent in the red of Bayern. With eight goals and 10 assists in 1734 minutes of first-team action, he is taking or making a chance every 96 minutes. Only Lewandowski (61 minutes), Gnabry (89 minutes), Müller (85 minutes) and teenager Joshua Zirkzee (59 minutes) have superior ratios in the final third.

As a reference, Coman has contributed a goal or assist every 169 minutes; Coutinho is hovering around the 106-minute mark.

If being blazingly effective was an art form, Perisic has mastered it.

Watch: Ivan Perisic's top 5 Bundesliga goals

Perisic's output is a boon for any team, let alone a Bayern outfit one win from repeating their Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League treble feat of 2012/13.

Married with a lung-busting defensive input atypical of an attacking wide player - the Croatian averaged 6.2 miles per game during his country's run to the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, and won 54 per cent of his attempted challenges this past season - he has hammered out a place in Hansi Flick's starting line-up on merit.

"Ideally, I like to have four wide players, and Ivan's doing a fantastic job," teased Bayern's head coach recently.

Even if Perisic does fall to number three or four in the charts following the arrival of marquee summer signing Leroy Sane - ineligible for the Champions League final tournament - it would be no surprise to see the industrious forward tapping away to his inimitably effectual beat at Bayern next season.

Chris Mayer-Lodge