Bayern Munich have completed the loan signing of Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona, after a tricky summer in which it sometimes felt like they were sitting on their hands and waiting for players to come to them.
On the Totally Football Show’s European edition this Tuesday, Raphael Honigstein outlined the reasons for Bayern making the move, but suggested that it still leaves plenty of questions unanswered about the club’s overall strategy.
“It seems to be more of a stop-gap solution,” he said. “If works out exceptionally well they have an option to buy, but as they found with James Rodriguez, that doesn’t mean a lot if the player doesn’t want to stay.
“Bayern have someone who can provide that bit of spark and creativity. They’ve changed their strategy from looking at wingers like Leroy Sane, and gone for a No.10.
“Of course he can play out wide, and I guess the thinking is that against most teams Bayern won’t have a lot of space, and maybe a No.10 type player will be more beneficial than having a fourth wide player.
“At the same time, Niko Kovac hasn’t shown many signs of playing that kind of football, with a dominant No.10 in the past. James struggled under him, Thomas Muller took a long time to get going and now plays mostly wide.
“It’s not something that immediately screams “OK, this is exactly what they need”, but the pressure was on to deliver a big name and get something in, in terms of attacking quality, and they found a more opportunistic move was warranted in this case.
Still, signing a player as big as Coutinho is exciting for Bayern, isn’t it? Well, sort of.
“It’s exciting, but I think it might be overplayed a little bit. Niko Kovac said the whole of Germany was happy Coutinho was coming: I’m not sure about that.
“Also Hasan Salihamidzic [Bayern’s sporting director] said Coutinho was the outstanding player at the Copa America – my understanding was that apart from a couple of free-kicks he didn’t do a lot for Brazil. I don’t know if the hype is in line with the reality.
“He is ‘a name’, somebody that commands huge value as a player, so he’s a coup of sorts and allows Bayern to feel they’re still a superpower and still very relevant.
“I don’t think it solves any of the underlying issues that a) we saw against Hertha [in their 2-2 draw on the opening weekend of the season] and b) the lack of authority from Kovac and lack of joined-up thinking at board level, which are much more difficult to solve. These are structural issues that will continue to dog them.”
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Follow Rafa on Twitter @Honigstein.