Coutinho magic helps Bayern Munich get back on track
MUNICH – Philippe Coutinho couldn't get enough after his classy performance in Bayern Munich's 6-1 Bundesliga demolition of Werder Bremen.
First he kicked the ball around in Munich's arena with his daughter Maria and team-mate Thiago, and then he bounced the ball repeatedly in the bowels of the stadium.
It is good custom in the sport that a player who scores a hat-trick takes the match ball back home to honour the occasion.
But Coutinho not only put three past Bremen keeper Jiri Pavlenka, he also set up Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller to score in his most dominant performance since he joined the Bundesliga champions on loan in summer from Barcelona.
Known as "O Magico" in his native Brazil, the world magic was often used in the German media Sunday, and the whole Bayern camp also joined the praise on the 27-year-old playmaker and forward.
❌ Rashica (24')— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) December 14, 2019
⚽ Coutinho (45')
⚽ Lewandowski (45+4')
⚽ Coutinho (63')
⚽ Lewandowski (72')
⚽ Müller (75')
⚽ Coutinho (78')
"Everyone at the stadium enjoyed it," coach Hansi Flick said. "The team were really glad he turned in such a display. It was just superb."
Lewandowksi, whom Coutinho helped score one of his two goals on the day for a league leading tally of 18, struck a similar note.
"It was his match today, with the ball, with his movements. He played outstandingly well. We need such a player. I'm very glad he showed how good he is and what potential he has," the Polish striker said.
Coutinho himself remained modest.
"I always try to do my best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It was important to take the points to advance today. That's what we want," Coutinho said.
Coutinho's class helped Bayern get back on track after back-to-back defeats against Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Moenchengladbach.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Coutinho as well as he appeared to be one of the losers when Flick took charge after the departure of Niko Kovac last month.
Flick originally didn't field him in the starting 11 of Munich's star-studded squad as he had failed to impress and some suggested he may have a hard time just as at Barca where he never achieved a real breakthrough after a 2017 transfer from Liverpool.
But Coutinho then showed his potential and scored in Tuesday's 3-1 Champions League win over Tottenham Hotspur, and followed it up against Bremen.
"It is not always easy to establish yourself in Germany," Flick had said Friday in support of Coutinho while sports director Hasan Salihamidzic was delighted after Saturday's game.
"I am so happy for him that it all finally clicked into place," Salihamidzic said.
However, it remains to be seen whether Bayern will make use of their option to sign him on a full transfer in summer for a reported overall fee of 120 million euros (133 million dollars) which would make him the most expensive player in Bundesliga history.
"We don't know what will happen," Coutinho said. "This is not the right time. It is time to be ready for the matches and to do my best."
More pressing for now in Munich is closing the gap on the top of the table and the future of Flick beyond the winter break, after the upcoming games in Freiburg and against Wolfsburg.
Players have praised Flick on several occasions, and full back David Alaba said Saturday: "We feel very good with him. You can clearly recognize his philosophy in our game."