Niko Kovac believes Philippe Coutinho has brought "another dimension" to Bayern Munich after he impressed in their Champions League win over Red Star Belgrade.

Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller goals earned Bayern a 3-0 victory over Red Star in the German giants' Group B opener.

However, it was Coutinho – on loan from LaLiga champions Barcelona with a view to a permanent move – who particularly caught the eye pulling the strings in Munich midweek.

"He played a really good game and with his football intelligence he brings another dimension to our game," Bayern head coach Kovac told Sky in Germany.

"I think we can be very happy. The team has been very focused and we scored three goals, that's befitting."

Muller came off the bench to make a club record 106th appearance in the Champions League for Bayern, but he played down its significance.

Muller said: "Such game records are something for after the career, and I'm not going to give up my shoes up in the near future, so it's not that important."

Red Star captain Marko Marin came agonisingly close to an equaliser before Lewandowski and Muller's strikes late on, and the 30-year-old attacker insisted the result was not a fair reflection of the game.

"We saw that Bayern are on another level," Marin said. We could have scored from our chances. They deserved a win but not the last two goals, they hurt the most. 

"Let's not forget that this is our first group match and playing away, so I hope that we will make up against Olympiacos."

Olympiacos held Tottenham to a 2-2 draw in the group's other game and head coach Vladan Milojevic added: "As I said before the match, Bayern and Tottenham are the favourites in the group, and we saw why tonight. We are aware that we played against a possible winner of the Champions League." 

Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller earned Bayern Munich a 3-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade as they moved top of Champions League Group B.

In-form France winger Coman struck in the 34th minute for the German giants at the Allianz Arena, his sixth goal of the campaign for club and country.

They were given a scare in the latter stages when Marko Marin curled agonisingly wide, but Lewandowski and substitute Muller struck late on to add gloss to the result.

Tottenham's draw with Olympiacos leaves Bayern as the only side with maximum points in the group after matchday one.

Philippe Coutinho was a lively presence throughout and he threatened with a driven shot just over the bar from the edge of the penalty after the visitors failed to clear their lines.

Jander wasted a chance for Red Star when he selfishly shot from a wide angle and could only find the side-netting and soon the Serbian champions were made to pay.

With a drop of the shoulder, Ivan Perisic beat his man before whipping in an inviting left-wing cross, which Coman converted emphatically with a diving header.

Coutinho almost made it two with a trademark effort, cutting inside before wrapping his foot around a bending shot that agonisingly missed the top-right corner.

Marin was inches away from levelling when he shot just wide with Manuel Neuer rooted, and Lewandowski made Red Star pay when, with 10 minutes left, he took advantage of some tired defending to poke in from close range.

Muller added another in added time when he superbly latched onto Thiago Alcantara's free-kick cheekily flicked over the wall.

 

The 2019-20 Champions League gets under way with the usual suspects among the favourites for the title: Barcelona, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and holders Liverpool.

Madrid face PSG in a blockbuster opening clash but the most interesting stories in the group stage could be bubbling under the surface, with Atalanta among the clubs making their competition debuts.

Stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah could dominate but the stage is set for many others to make their names among Europe's elite.

Omnisport picks out 10 players who may have a huge impact on this season's Champions League.


MATTHIJS DE LIGT - JUVENTUS

Juventus may have preferred to slowly integrate De Ligt into their defence after he joined from Ajax. But a long-term injury to captain Giorgio Chiellini means the Netherlands centre-back has been pressed into action already. De Ligt has made a stumbling start in Turin but his leadership helped Ajax reach the semi-finals last season, knocking Juve out along the way. If they are to recapture the Champions League title, De Ligt is set for a key role at the back.


JOAO FELIX - ATLETICO MADRID

Antoine Griezmann's move to Barcelona left Atletico with a huge hole to fill in their attack, with the Rojiblancos breaking their club record to sign Joao Felix from Benfica. There is no doubting the 19-year-old's extreme talent but whether or not he is ready to lead Atleti to Champions League glory after some perilously near misses in recent years remains to be seen.


JADON SANCHO - BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Another teenager, England star Sancho is already one of the most dangerous forwards in world football. The 19-year-old has already contributed two goals and four assists in the Bundesliga this term, while he opened his international account with a brace against Kosovo last week. Perhaps most impressive about Sancho is his decision-making in the final third where he is clinical, especially on the break. Dortmund are in a tough Group F with Barcelona, Inter and Slavia Prague.


RODRI - MANCHESTER CITY

European success continues to elude City but the capture of Rodri from Atletico could help them finally go to the next level in the Champions League. Control has been an issue for Pep Guardiola's men in the knockout rounds but Spain midfielder Rodri, seen as a successor to Sergio Busquets internationally, should enable them to dominate possession more than ever.


PHILIPPE COUTINHO - BAYERN MUNICH

Having struggled to justify his move to Barcelona, Brazil playmaker Coutinho has been given a fresh start with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. His arrival ought to help address the loss of James Rodriguez after his two-year loan from Real Madrid ended. Bayern are looking for a first European crown since 2012-13 with Coutinho needing to step up.


ERLING HAALAND - SALZBURG

One of Europe's most in-form strikers, Haaland hit eight league goals in six games for Austrian champions Salzburg before the international break. The Leeds-born 19-year-old, son of former Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland, shot to fame when he scored nine goals in Norway's 12-0 win over Honduras at the Under-20 World Cup earlier this year.


LAUTARO MARTINEZ - INTER

Inter and Dortmund look likely to be scrapping for second spot in Group F, so Antonio Conte will want a big impact from Lautaro Martinez. The Argentina attacker should get more chances to impress after the departure of compatriot Mauro Icardi to PSG on loan and he showed he is in fine form by hitting a hat-trick in a friendly defeat of Mexico during the international break.


DANI OLMO - DINAMO ZAGREB

Having led Spain to glory at the European Under-21 Championship this year, Olmo was one of Europe's most in-demand players. Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham were all linked with the 21-year-old, who was retained by Dinamo instead. He offers a genuine threat in the final third, having scored eight league goals last term, and Dinamo have a real chance of qualifying from Group C behind likely winners Manchester City.


ALEJANDRO GOMEZ - ATALANTA

In the same group, along with Shakhtar Donetsk, are Champions League newcomers Atalanta, who thrilled in Serie A last term. Finally getting a chance to shine in the Champions League, Gomez may not get another opportunity to adorn this competition. One of the most consistent performers in Italy's top flight, the 31-year-old could help Atalanta become the tournament's surprise package.


MASON MOUNT - CHELSEA

A transfer ban has forced Europa League winners Chelsea to reassess their squad with new England international Mason Mount among those making the most of their chance under Blues head coach Frank Lampard. Three Premier League goals have helped the 20-year-old, who played under Lampard at Championship side Derby County on loan last season, settle in quickly. The Champions League is his next test.

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann is targeting victory against Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich on Saturday and believes Timo Werner could be key.

Nagelsmann has led Leipzig to the top of the table after his first three matches in charge, with Werner on target five times already in the league.

The Germany striker has long been linked with a move to Bayern, but will this weekend face his mooted suitors, seemingly set for a decisive role in the biggest match of the season so far.

"Individual quality can always be crucial, so it can be key for us if we have a Timo Werner in top form," Nagelsmann told a news conference on Thursday.

"He was very good in training [on Wednesday] and he will be a very important factor. He is able to hurt Bayern very much."

 

Asked about Leipzig's aims for the weekend, the coach added: "We can talk about [a draw] in retrospect. I would like to win and go into the game with that approach."

But Nagelsmann was keen to remind the media the outcome of this match will not necessarily be decisive in the title race.

"Good results against Bayern can take you a long way, but you have to keep performing every week," he said. "If we win against Bayern and then lose every other game, it counts for nothing."

Leipzig have some injury concerns - Dayot Upamecano is "93 per cent" fit, but Patrik Schick is "a bit battered" and Kevin Kampl continues to deal with an ankle issue - but they are also waiting to see if Philippe Coutinho starts for Bayern.

Opposition coach Niko Kovac suggested Thomas Muller could be selected instead if Coutinho is not fully fit following a long journey from Brazil duty in Los Angeles.

"Of course, we are thinking about it, but it does not change the whole style of Bayern Munich," Nagelsmann said.

"We will not go into detail about whether Coutinho or Muller starts. They are different players, but there are also parallels. Both are hard to contain.

"I have in my head which player I think he plays. I'm preparing for something."

Niko Kovac is not willing to take any risks with Philippe Coutinho and will assess the Bayern Munich star's condition when he returns from international duty ahead of facing RB Leipzig.

Coutinho, signed on loan from Barcelona in the recent transfer window, made his first Bayern start as he played over an hour against Mainz before heading off to meet up with Brazil.

But with a key match against early Bundesliga leaders Leipzig coming at the weekend, the midfielder is facing a race to be available, having started against Peru in Los Angeles on Tuesday as he builds fitness in the opening weeks of the season.

Given Bayern's other options in the form of Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso, Bayern coach Kovac wants to ensure Coutinho is up to scratch before throwing him in again.

"Now we have to wait for [Coutinho] to come back, then we'll see how he feels," Kovac told a news conference on Thursday.

"It was important that he played two games [for Brazil] but, of course, such a long journey is exhausting and we have a very good alternative with Thomas.

"I cannot say what that will mean at the weekend. I have to wait and see the status of Philippe.

"Every player has to be at 100 per cent. We need physically fresh and motivated players. We will talk to the players and we will also have King [Coman] and Coco [Tolisso].

"If someone feels they are not [ready], it would be reckless not to say so."

Preparations this week are particularly key with Bayern eager to not fall too far behind Leipzig - two points clear at the top of the table - even at this early stage.

Kovac added: "[Julian Nagelsmann] is a very good, young coach. Leipzig were already very good. Now, Julian brings with him some other knowledge that will make the team even better.

"Leipzig are still top - after the match, we want to be.

"At the beginning of the season, there is one game week after week and we have started well, although I'm annoyed by the two points we lost against [Hertha] Berlin.

"We want to position ourselves at the top and that's what the game against Leipzig is all about.

"The past three games last season were all narrow results; 1-0, 0-0 and the DFB-Pokal final was only 1-0 up to 75 minutes [Bayern won 3-0]. These are tight matches. It'll be like that this weekend, too.

"We are facing good players, but we are the German champions and will play with the confidence that we want to win."

Meanwhile, Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka underwent successful thigh surgery on Wednesday but Kovac was reluctant to place a timescale on his return.

"He's fine, the operation went well," the coach said. "We hope he'll come back as soon as possible, but we cannot name an exact day or week."

Philippe Coutinho will make the difference for Bayern Munich once he is fully up to speed, according to team-mate Benjamin Pavard.

Brazil international Coutinho joined Bayern from Barcelona on an initial season-long loan last month and featured twice in the Bundesliga before heading away on international duty.

Pavard, a fellow new signing, acknowledges the former Liverpool man may need some time to rediscover his best form but believes he will then have a huge impact.

Asked to describe Coutinho, Pavard told Sky Sport: "A little wizard! He is very discreet and really personable. First of all, a really fine guy. And of course a very good footballer.

"It's very hard to get him off the ball. He's not 100 per cent yet - he probably needs some more games because he joined the team very late.

"But I'm sure, in a few weeks, we will see the world-class footballer Coutinho.

"Of course [he can make the difference]. I now know him from a few training sessions and I have no doubt about that. He has incredible quality and will show it to everyone."

Lionel Messi will get to decide his Barcelona future, regardless of when the star is contracted until.

Messi, 32, re-signed with the LaLiga champions two years ago, extending his contract until 2021.

But such extensions may not matter when it comes to arguably the world's best player.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI CAN LEAVE BARCELONA AT THE END OF ANY SEASON

Messi can choose to leave Barcelona at the conclusion of any campaign regardless of his contract, according to El Pais.

The Argentina superstar made his debut for the club in late 2004, and his future is seemingly in his own hands.

It remains to be seen when, or if, Messi decides to depart Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho eventually left Barcelona for Bayern Munich on loan, but it could have been different for the playmaker. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola rejected the chance to sign the 27-year-old, according to Marca.

- Left out of Juventus' Champions League squad, Mario Mandzukic is eyeing a January exit, according to Calciomercato.com. The striker was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United during the transfer window.

- Staying in Turin, Juventus could have signed Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng in the close season. Calciomercato.com reports Maurizio Sarri rejected a move for the centre-back.

- Ousmane Dembele was reportedly wanted by Paris Saint-Germain while they were in talks with Barcelona over a move for Neymar. But the attacker refused to leave because he is at his dream club at Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

- Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is reportedly in talks with Monaco, but the 55-time Italy international turned down a move to Scottish giants Rangers, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Left out of the England squad, Manchester City defender Kyle Walker is worried he has no international future under Gareth Southgate, the Daily Star reports.

No close season seems complete without a transfer saga.

This window has seen Neymar take centre stage - and not for the first time in his career either - as we waited to find out his location by the end of September 2. 

Now we know. Despite all the speculation, and even with the media suggesting half of the Barcelona squad could be moving in the opposite direction, the Brazilian forward will not be back at Camp Nou but instead remain at Paris Saint-Germain - at least for the next few months.

The story had more twists than the career of a rollercoaster designer. It was on, then off. Then back on again. Meanwhile, almost as a sideshow while the window remained open, the two clubs happened to start playing competitive games again in their domestic leagues.

Here, we look back at some other superstars who were previously involved in headline-grabbing transfer tales.

 

Steven Gerrard

It is mind-boggling to think how the footballing landscape may have looked had Steven Gerrard ended up joining Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

The local boy who had come through the club’s ranks told Liverpool in July 2005 that he wanted to leave. Fans did not take the request well, burning Gerrard's number 17 shirt just over a month after he had captained the Reds to a famous Champions League triumph in Istanbul.

Having turned down a new deal, the midfielder revealed it had been "the hardest decision" for him to tell the Reds he needed to move on. The lure of working with Mourinho at the Blues appeared too great to ignore, or so it seemed.

Instead, Gerrard changed his mind. "He wants to stay. I couldn't be more delighted," chief executive Rick Parry said in a news conference, echoing the feelings of Liverpool fans around the world.

'Stevie G' ended up sticking around at Anfield for another decade, eventually departing for MLS in 2015.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo has made a habit of suggesting he is ready to move on after winning the Champions League.

The Portuguese superstar got his wish after lifting the trophy for a third straight year with Real Madrid in 2018. He teased his departure in a post-match interview not long after the final whistle against Liverpool, before the confetti was even cleaned up, paving the way for a sensational switch to Juventus.

However, Manchester United were not so forthcoming to Ronaldo's wishes in 2008.

So strong was the Red Devils' stance in the face of interest from Madrid, Alex Ferguson claimed United’s owners, the Glazers, would rather sit a player in the stand "just to prove a point", rather than be forced to make a sale.

The English club made a complaint to FIFA concerning Madrid's public pursuit (no action was taken, by the way) as they stood their ground. Having little option but to stay put, Ronaldo said in October he could see himself staying at United beyond the 2008-09 season.

Yet when Madrid came calling again the following year, the forward finally got his move. United cashed in on their prized asset for a then world-record fee of £80m.

 

Wayne Rooney

Rooney sensationally declared his intention to leave Manchester United (for the first time) in October 2010, citing a concern over the club's unwillingness to spend big in the transfer market.

Following a meeting with the then-chief executive David Gill, the England international released a strongly worded statement that said: "He [Gill] did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad".

Citing a desire to win trophies, Rooney suddenly appeared to be heading for the Old Trafford exit. Manchester City seemed his most likely destination, too.

However, it turned out he just needed to sleep on it. Well, for two nights anyway. Having initially baulked at signing a new deal at United, the striker made a stunning U-turn and penned a five-year contract.

"I've spoken to the manager [Alex Ferguson] and the owners and they've convinced me this is where I belong," he said, while adding his intention to win back the trust of the fans. It may also have helped make up his mind that the Red Devils reportedly doubled his wages.

 

Luis Suarez

In the 2013-14 season, Suarez was sensational for Liverpool, a one-man wrecking ball who so nearly fired them to the title. The Uruguayan scored 31 Premier League goals to win the competition’s Golden Boot, while he was also named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year.

Yet it is easy to forget that the same player had wanted to leave the Reds prior to the campaign.

Suarez believed the club had failed to deliver on a promise to let him leave after they failed to qualify for the Champions League, with Arsenal appearing his next destination. The player felt, in such circumstance, his contract included a release clause set at £40m – and the Gunners duly put in an offer £1 above that amount.

"They gave me their word a year ago and now I want them to honour that. And it is not just something verbal with the coach but something that is written in the contract. I'm not going to another club to hurt Liverpool," Suarez said at one stage.

In the end, he had to wait 12 months to eventually get his move elsewhere – and Liverpool pocketed considerably more than £40m when the striker, serving a four-month ban at the time from all football-related activity after biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup - headed to Barcelona.

 

Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool had barely finished typing out a statement to confirm he was not for sale when Philippe Coutinho e-mailed a transfer request to the club in August 2017.

Barcelona – with money to burn after Neymar had moved to PSG – had seen two bids rejected for the Brazilian playmaker, who had signed a new long-term deal in January but made clear his desire to move on just six months later.

The Reds, however, refused to budge – "maybe we are not a selling club," said Jurgen Klopp, who integrated the player back into the squad when the window closed. However, when it ticked into 2018, the rumours started again.

Having stood their ground previously, Liverpool changed their minds and negotiated a reported £142m price for Coutinho – a huge profit on the £8.5m they spent to bring him in from Inter.

"It is his dream and I am now convinced there is nothing left at our disposal to change his mind," Klopp admitted. In an added twist, Coutinho found himself suggested as a makeweight in a deal to bring Neymar back to Barca before joining Bayern Munich on loan.

Joshua Kimmich insists Bayern Munich are not thinking about Borussia Dortmund and are instead focused on ending RB Leipzig's perfect Bundesliga start.

Dortmund suffered a shock 3-1 loss to Union Berlin on Saturday to leave Leipzig as the only side with a 100 per cent record after three matches.

Bayern have won back-to-back games after being held to an opening-game draw by Hertha Berlin and face Julian Nagelsmann's league leaders in their next outing.

Kimmich has played a full part in all three of Bayern's league games so far and is relishing a top-of-the-table showdown at the Red Bull Arena on September 14.

"Dortmund's defeat hasn't been a topic yet," he told reporters. "We are now on the third matchday, we have to look after ourselves and still have work to do. 

"We've already left some points behind. There are still enough matchdays ahead of us. If we get our points, then we'll be champions again. But we still have to work hard for that.

"Leipzig got off to a perfect start with three victories. We're behind, so of course we don't want to be in that position that long. We always prefer to be right at the front. 

"We can make sure of that with the next game. In Leipzig you can set an exclamation mark. It's definitely a good time to play against Leipzig - they're in a good mood and we can see where we stand. 

"We came in with three games, now there's the international break and then it's all about Leipzig and the Champions League."

Union Berlin claimed the first Bundesliga victory in their history by seeing off Dortmund and Bayern midfielder Philippe Coutinho, handed his full debut in the 6-1 win against Mainz 05, believes that is a sign of the ruthless nature of the division.

"Dortmund are a great team," he said. "The Bundesliga is very competitive. We have to be prepared, as we are in every game. 

"We are at the beginning of the championship and we have to add as many points as we can to fight for the title at the end."

Niko Kovac was unimpressed with Bayern Munich's lack of energy despite the Bundesliga champions thumping Mainz 6-1.

Jean-Paul Boetius silenced the Allianz Arena on Saturday with the opening goal in the sixth minute.

New arrivals Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic were handed their first starts and the Croatia international set up Benjamin Pavard for the equaliser half an hour after Mainz's opener.

David Alaba's stunner put Bayern in front, then Perisic scored a header before Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski and substitute Alphonso Davies secured an ultimately emphatic victory.

Kovac, though, was criticial of Bayern's start despite collecting a first home win of the season after being held by Hertha Berlin in their opener.

"We were too lethargic until the first cooling break," Kovac told Bayern's official club website.

"We didn't find a reply to Mainz's aggression, we thought it would be easy. Then our passing was quicker, we lured our opponents into the centre and had good moves on the wings.

"David Alaba's goal before the break was crucial. It was over when we scored our fourth goal. We go into the two-week international break happy."

Alaba's brilliant free-kick proved a key moment in the game and the Austria international agreed with Kovac's assessment of the game.

"We struggled to get into the game in the first 20 minutes; we weren't aggressive enough, we weren't quick enough," Alaba added.

"We also made a few mistakes, it's difficult then. Mainz did a very good job. We got a grip after the first cooling break.

"I'm proud to be part of this team. Everyone hits the gas in training, you can see everyone loves football. And when we put it into practice as a unit at the weekend it's great of course."

The international break offers a chance for Mainz to regroup, with Sandro Schwarz's side bottom of the table having conceded 12 goals in three games, scoring only twice.

"There's no point lamenting and creating unrest, not for us, not for the club," said Mainz defender Alexander Hack. "We must keep going, we now have two weeks to question things and to work."

Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic were handed full debuts for Bayern Munich after Niko Kovac named the duo in his starting XI for the Bundesliga clash with Mainz.

After arriving on loan from Barcelona, Coutinho came on as a substitute in Bayern's 3-0 win over Schalke last time out.

Perisic, loaned from Inter, also made an appearance from the bench as Robert Lewandowski's hat-trick secured the champions' first win of the season.

But both players were afforded the chance on Saturday to prove their worth from the start, with head coach Kovac making three changes in total.

Coutinho came in as the number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Thomas Muller dropping to the bench, while Perisic was set to start on the left - Serge Gnabry missing out and Kingsley Coman switching to the right flank.

The other change saw Corentin Tolisso make way for Thiago Alcantara, with Kovac deciding to keep his back line of Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and David Alaba intact. Lewandowski starts up front.

Niko Kovac is confident Robert Lewandowski will sign a new contract with Bayern Munich and has backed the striker to maintain his impressive goalscoring form.

Lewandowski has less than two years to run on his existing deal but revealed last week that talks over fresh terms are "95 per cent" done.

The 31-year-old finished as the Bundesliga's top scorer for the fourth time in six years last season and already has five goals in two matches this term.

His agent Pini Zahavi was pictured arriving in Munich on Thursday and Bayern head coach Kovac said he hopes the extension - which will reportedly run through until 2023 - can be tied up soon.

"We assume that everything will be done," he said at his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's home clash with Mainz. 

"He has developed very well here in Germany. Five goals in two games is amazing. We hope he'll stay healthy. He could have gone a year or two ago, but he stayed. At 31, he's happy here with his family.

"Four times he has won the crown of the top scorer in the Bundesliga, which is great. He is in great shape and has done well this season, so we're very happy with that and I hope he stays this way."

Lewandowski has been responsible for all five of Bayern's league goals this season, the Poland international following up his brace in the 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin with a hat-trick against Schalke.

But Kovac dismissed suggestions his side are over-reliant on the former Borussia Dortmund frontman as others can fill the void when required.

"If he needs a break, we must have players to replace him," he said. "Serge [Gnabry] can do that. He showed that for the national team and at Hoffenheim. 

"Thomas [Muller] can do that in a different way. [Jann-Fiete] Arp is still young but is a player who should grow. He still needs time."

Philippe Coutinho's arrival on loan from Barcelona gives Bayern a different type of option, meanwhile, and Kovac hopes the Brazilian can quickly get up to speed in the coming weeks.

"We want to get Coutinho fit," Kovac said. "He will be with the national team and maybe he will get more minutes and get even fitter."

"He's likeable, calm and reserved. That's what makes a superstar. He can do anything but he is still modest."

Robert Lewandowski talked up the quality of new team-mate Philippe Coutinho and insisted Bayern Munich still have a better squad than Bundesliga title rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern finished two points ahead of Dortmund in 2018-19 to retain their top-flight crown and have added six new players during the transfer window, which closes on Monday.

Coutinho arrived last week on a season-long loan from Barcelona and made his debut as a substitute in Saturday's 3-0 win over Schalke at the Veltins Arena, where Ivan Perisic also made his first appearance for Bayern.

Lewandowski, who scored a hat-trick to take his tally to five goals in two league outings this term, has been particularly impressed by the addition of Coutinho.

"His last pass is insane, he can be the key in important games, especially in the Champions League," he told Sport Bild.

"We become more unpredictable through him, that makes us more dangerous.

"He can play as the number ten, outside left, if necessary also on the right. We can play with different systems. We have more options now."

Bayern drew 2-2 in their opening game with Hertha Berlin and sit two points behind Dortmund, who have brought in the likes of Nico Schulz, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt and ex-Bayern defender Mats Hummels.

Lewandowski previously expressed his dismay at his side's lack of transfer activity, but he is content with the recent signings and is confident the reigning champions boast more quality than BVB.

"Dortmund has done a lot, they have a big squad," he said. "But it's not about quantity, it's about quality. And that's for sure - we have the players with the higher quality."

Philippe Coutinho heaped praise on the "amazing" Robert Lewandowski following the Bayern Munich striker's sparkling Bundesliga hat-trick against Schalke.

The star centre-forward converted a first-half penalty and added two more after the interval - including a sublime free-kick - to secure a convincing 3-0 victory, the first of his team's title defence.

Lewandowski's treble ensured loan signing Coutinho enjoyed a winning debut.

The Brazil international appeared as a substitute and was left extremely impressed with his prolific team-mate, who boasts six goals in all competitions this season.

"He's a legend," Coutinho told FOX Soccer.

"He's a great, great player. I saw him on the TV before and now I work with him for two, three days in training and in the game.

"What can I say? He's an amazing player and an amazing person."

Coutinho tallied 36 touches in just over half an hour on the pitch at the Veltins-Arena, where Ivan Perisic also made his Bayern debut.

The former only moved from Barcelona on Monday and Niko Kovac expects his contribution to grow as he builds fitness.

"I think you've seen his skills with the ball, how he moves into space, how he calls for the ball and how he puts his team-mates in the limelight," the Bayern head coach said.

"If he reaches the fitness level of the other players in the coming weeks, I'm convinced that he can help us a lot.

"But I am extremely satisfied with his performance."

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick to take his goal tally to five in two games as he fired Bayern Munich to their first Bundesliga victory of the season in a 3-0 defeat of Schalke.

After finishing with his lowest goal return for four years in 2018-19, plundering 22 league goals, the Poland international has started the new campaign in electric form and Schalke failed to contain him.

Any hopes Schalke boss David Wagner had of taking points from his first home game in charge were cast into doubt when Lewandowski converted a first-half penalty.

The 31-year-old saved his best for the second half, when he curled a spectacular free-kick into the top corner and then added a third to wrap up a comfortable victory.

Bayern coach Niko Kovac took the opportunity to hand a debut to loanee forward Philippe Coutinho in the last 35 minutes, and after a frustrating start to the season the champions are starting to look more like themselves.

Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, heavily linked with a move to Bayern during the close season, made a good reaction save to keep a powerful Lewandowski header out after 15 minutes.

When Schalke's loanee full-back Jonjoe Kenny made a clumsy sliding challenge on Kingsley Coman four minutes later the referee had no option but to award a penalty that Lewandowski calmly stroked into net.

The second half was just four minutes old when Corentin Tolisso won a free-kick 25 yards from goal, prompting Lewandowski to unleash a scintillating strike that swerved away from Nubel and into the top-left corner.

With 15 minutes left, Coman burst down the right and crossed to the edge of the box where Lewandowski had time to take a touch before rattling a low shot into the bottom-right corner of the net to add gloss to the result.

 

What does it mean? Normal service resumed

After defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the DFL-Supercup and a draw with Hertha Berlin in their season opener, Bayern put paid to suggestions that they are on the wane with a calm, confident victory.

Lewandowski like a fine wine

Bayern's dependence on Lewandowski for firepower is often viewed as a weakness in their squad, but when he is in this kind of form that argument falls flat.

Toffee unstuck

Everton loanee Kenny enjoyed a clean sheet on his Schalke debut in a goalless draw with Borussia Monchengladbach, but his sloppy challenge on Coman ended any chance of another.

What's next?

Struggling Mainz travel to Munich for a clash with the champions on Saturday, while Schalke entertain Hertha.

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