Bayern Munich have been crying out for a new playmaker to excel in the No.10 role. In recent years, Mario Götze and James Rodriguez have failed to truly find their feet but Philippe Coutinho may prove to be the answer.
"My best position, where I can give my best, is in the No.10 role," Coutinho said as he announced his arrival in Munich.
Two-footed, an outstanding passing repertoire, with an ability to shift the ball at a blink of an eye and accelerate beyond opponents in a flash, Coutinho still stands out as one of the world's best playmakers.
The Brazilian may have endured a tough 18 months in Barcelona after a messy transfer from Liverpool, but at Bayern Munich Coutinho appears to have a platform where he can once again shine, just as he did on Merseyside for a glorious four-and-a-half seasons.
The roughly €20 million Bayern are paying – an €8.5 million loan fee and €12 million in wages – seems a lot for an out-of-form star, but the Bavarians have a big opportunity to rejuvenate a special talent. Big outlays promise potentially big rewards.
If Niko Kovac builds his team around Coutinho – something Ernesto Valverde was unable to do at Barcelona – then both parties will benefit and Bayern could have found an answer to their search for a new creative lynchpin.
System change required
At Barcelona, Coutinho became known as a luxury player, despite his undoubted talent and ability to play in a number of positions.
He was unable to play in his favored No.10 role thanks to Lionel Messi, Valverde preferred Arthur or Arturo Vidal in midfield due to their defensive qualities, and Coutinho faced competition from a more direct and explosive Ousmane Dembele on the left wing.
But with Bayern he can become their conductor. All Kovac needs to do is tweak his 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 and give Coutinho the support of two deeper-lying midfielders, in order to excel behind Robert Lewandowski.
Thiago and Leon Goretzka would be the obvious options in midfield and with Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry patrolling the wings, Bayern start to look a lot more dangerous.
The only question is how Thomas Müller fits into the equation. The ever-present, evergreen 29-year-old has seen challengers to his Raumdeuter (space interpreter) role behind the main striker come and go. But if Bayern truly want Coutinho to shine then they need to hand him the No.10 role in front of the club legend.
"It depends on the coach. I play where he wants, I want to do my best. Of course, Müller often played as the No.10. That's what the coach will decide," Coutinho said.
Coutinho would not be best utilised out on the left wing. He is not Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben and cannot be seen as a replacement for either. As chief playmaker, Coutinho has the potential to rediscover his confidence, his artistic license, and the devastating form that saw him score 54 goals and provide 45 assists in 201 games for Liverpool.
By the end of the season, the €120 million buy-out clause Bayern have negotiated with Barcelona could prove a bargain. Coutinho could well become the Bundesliga's best player, if he's given the right platform.
Of course, Bayern's recent attempts to find a new No.10 to take over from Thomas Müller have proved mixed. Mario Götze arrived in 2013 to usurp the role but amid a number of health issues, couldn't live up to expectations under Pep Guardiola.
Next was James Rodriguez, who arrived in 2016 on a two-year loan from Real Madrid. However, the Colombian never won Kovac's trust and last season often lost his starting position to Müller. Moments of brilliance were too often littered with inconsistencies.
The similarities between James and Coutinho are easy enough to make – both hail from South America, both struggled to settle in Spain, and both have an air of exuberance and flair that makes them stand-out as game changers.
Coutinho, however, has the attributes to distinguish himself from being a mere James 2.0. He possesses a canny knack for escaping tight situations and skipping past opponents, not to mention a venemous shot with both feet. If he rediscovers his confidence he can perform on a consistent basis.
But for that, he needs the trust of Kovac.
Only one option
That trust begins with handing Coutinho the No.10 role. Otherwise this deal makes zero sense.
Coutinho has already taken over Robben's No.10 jersey – a clear sign he has no qualms following in the footsteps of a club legend – and now the position he craves should also be handed down.
Bayern are at a crossroads, both on and off the field, and an injection of world-class quality is exactly what they need to stave off the challenges of a resurgent Borussia Dortmund and improving RB Leipzig. After missing out on Leroy Sane in the transfer window, Coutinho is the signing that could kick start their season.
Give him the platform and Philippe "O Magico" Coutinho can return to his very best, and at the same time keep Bayern at the top of German football and return them to the upper echelons of European competition.