Philippe Coutinho has endured a difficult spell at Barcelona, but now the Brazil playmaker has the chance to reignite his career at Bayern Munich.

Bayern and Barca representatives confirmed on Friday that a deal had been agreed for Coutinho to join the Bundesliga champions on a season-long loan deal and the move was officially completed on Monday.

There is also an option for Bayern to buy the former Liverpool star outright for €120million at the end of the loan.

While some Bayern fans were underwhelmed with the signing of Ivan Perisic as an alternative to Leroy Sane - whose anterior cruciate ligament injury has ended the chances of an imminent move for the Manchester City winger - Coutinho's arrival will surely soften the blow should the 27-year-old recapture his Liverpool form.

Below, we analyse how Bayern could line up in 2019-20.
 

4-2-3-1: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Corentin Tolisso, Thiago Alcantara; Serge Gnabry, Philippe Coutinho, Kingsley Coman; Robert Lewandowski.

Coutinho's ability to not only thread sublime throughballs behind the lines, but also unleash wicked shots from range, makes him the perfect fit to play behind Lewandowski.

Niko Kovac is blessed with two rapid wingers in the form of Gnabry and Coman, who will be able to stretch the opposition and open up space for Coutinho to exploit in the centre.

While Thiago can sit as a deep-lying playmaker, Corentin Tolisso has the energy to get up in support of the front line, which would also enable Coutinho to drop back into midfield and use his dribbling skills to drive upfield.

4-3-3: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Philippe Coutinho; Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, Ivan Perisic.

Potentially a system that would be suitable for big European nights, Bayern could deploy Coutinho in a central midfield three.

Javi Martinez would come in as the holding midfielder, with Thiago able to keep things ticking over alongside the former Athletic Bilbao man.

Coutinho would be given freedom, able to drift wide and link up with the advancing full-backs, or burst forward in possession through the centre.

Brazil coach Tite often plays Coutinho in a similar role for the national team.

 

3-4-1-2: Manuel Neuer; Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez; Joshua Kimmich, Corentin Tolisso, Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba; Philippe Coutinho; Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski.

Hernandez came in as Bayern's record signing from Atletico Madrid, but he is not the only defender to have joined the Bundesliga giants, with fellow World Cup winner Pavard having also arrived.

Hernandez may be likely to start more games, but Pavard's introduction could also lead to Bayern deploying a back three, with Coutinho utilised in a playmaking role behind a front two - in this case, Lewandowski and Muller.

One concern with this line-up could be a lack of pace, though Kovac would have the option to introduce Coman, Gnabry or Perisic from the bench if required, with Muller and Lewandowski likely to thrive off Coutinho's creativity.

 

4-2-3-1: Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba; Corentin Tolisso; Thiago Alcantara; Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, Philippe Coutinho; Robert Lewandowski.

Coutinho was often forced to play wide at Barca, though that was in more of a front three or a 4-4-2.

At Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp regularly deployed Coutinho on the left flank, with the Brazilian encouraged to drift infield and link the play or get off a deadly shot.

Kovac could use his new signing in a similar way, allowing Coutinho to cut inside and switch the play to Gnabry on the opposite flank, while there would also be room for Muller to play as a second striker.

Robert Lewandowski believes Philippe Coutinho will make a seamless transition to Bayern Munich after the Bundesliga champions agreed to a deal to sign the Barcelona playmaker.

Coutinho is set to join Bayern on loan for the 2019-20 season – the deal including an option to buy the Brazil international – after the German giants and Barca confirmed on Friday that an agreement is in place.

Bayern have been desperate to reinforce their squad following the departures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, and the conclusion of James Rodriguez's loan deal from Real Madrid.

Ivan Perisic arrived after a serious knee injury scuppered Bayern's attempts to sign Manchester City star Leroy Sane, and Coutinho is poised to follow in Munich.

"I don't think he'll need that much time to adapt to our system and ideas," Lewandowski told reporters of Coutinho after scoring twice in Bayern's 2-2 draw at home to Hertha Berlin in the club's Bundesliga opener.

"I think he's the sort of player that can settle in without many problems."

Coutinho has struggled to cement his place at Camp Nou since joining Barca in a reported €160million transfer from Liverpool in January 2018.

The 27-year-old scored five league goals as Barca retained their LaLiga crown in 2018-19, while he managed 11 in all competitions.

It was not all good news following Friday's agreement as Bayern midfielder Renato Sanches vented his frustration with his lack of playing time.

Sanches – who has struggled since joining from Benfica in 2016 – made a brief appearance against Hertha, the Portuguese an 85th-minute replacement for Thomas Muller.

Upset with the situation following two unsuccessful attempts to leave, the 21-year-old Sanches said: "Of course I'm disappointed, it's the second time the club has not let me go, five minutes is not enough for me."

Asked about Sanches' comments, Bayern head coach Niko Kovac added: "I cannot say anything about that, I did not speak to him."

Bayern Munich are set to sign Philippe Coutinho on a season-long loan from Barcelona and the deal includes an option to buy the playmaker, Hasan Salihamidzic has confirmed.

Coutinho was not involved as LaLiga champions Barca suffered a surprise opening-day defeat to Athletic Bilbao on Friday, with the club's official spokesman Guillermo Amor announcing prior to kick-off an agreement had been reached to send the former Liverpool man to Bayern.

Bayern got off to a similarly sluggish start to their Spanish counterparts, drawing 2-2 at home to Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga curtain raiser.

After the clash at Allianz Arena, Bayern sporting director Salihamidzic – who also revealed Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Mickael Cuisance will be joining the Bundesliga champions – announced a deal for Coutinho is in place.

"I can confirm that [Bayern chairman] Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and I have been in Barcelona this week and we have reached an agreement with Barcelona, with the player and his agent," he told ZDF.

"We have had very good discussions, I would like to thank Barcelona. Of course, there are still missing a few details, including the medical check and the signature.

"It is a transfer on loan for one year followed by a purchase option for Bayern."

Coutinho, who will help to replace James Rodriguez after his two-year loan from Real Madrid ended, has struggled to cement his place at Camp Nou since joining Barca in a reported €160million transfer in January 2018, a move that saw him become the world's second most expensive player.

The Brazil midfielder is set to follow another loan signing – Ivan Perisic – through the door, though sections of Bayern's fanbase were not impressed by the deal to sign the Inter forward, who came in as an alternative to Leroy Sane after the Manchester City winger suffered a serious knee injury.

"Nowadays it is not easy in the transfer market," Salihamidzic continued. "We tried very hard, it is clear that we want to offer our fans something spectacular. But to reinforce this team is not easy.

"With Perisic, some will see that he is a really good player. Coutinho will offer us options; he can play in the middle or can come from the left. The fans can be happy."

Bayern boss Niko Kovac, meanwhile, believes German football fans should be delighted a player of Coutinho's quality is joining the Bundesliga.

"I am of the opinion that we – and I do not only refer to Bayern Munich but also to the whole Bundesliga, whole Germany – can be happy to welcome such a top player here in this league," Kovac told a news conference after the draw with Hertha.

"He is a player that not only proved this in the clubs but also at the national team. If you look at the last Copa America, then you know what I am talking about. We are very delighted and I think he will fit well. He will show us what he is capable of – namely playing football very well."

Niko Kovac is confident Ivan Perisic will make a positive impact after joining Bayern Munich on loan from Inter, despite him being the club's "second choice".

Bayern made no secret of their desire to buy Leroy Sane from Manchester City, but the Germany winger - now sidelined for up to seven months with a knee injury - stayed with the Premier League champions.

With Chelsea's teenage England international Callum Hudson-Odoi reportedly set to sign a new contract at Stamford Bridge, Bayern were forced to move down their list of transfer targets.

They turned to Kovac's fellow Croatian Perisic, the former Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg winger who found himself surplus to requirements at Inter following the appointment of Antonio Conte as the club's new head coach.

Perisic will spend the 2019-20 season on loan at the Allianz Arena, with the deal including a purchase option, but some fans have expressed anger at what they consider to be an unimaginative signing.

Kovac, though, thinks his own first term at Bayern shows Perisic could be a shrewd addition.

"I was also the second choice [for Bayern] and we won the double, so… It's like this: we made this choice all together," Kovac told a news conference on Wednesday. 

"We analysed and spoke about a lot of names. He [Perisic] was already on the list. I brought him up back then, because I know Ivan, I know what he's capable of, I know what kind of skills he has, and we all know what he's achieved in Germany.

"Personally, I have a good connection to [Perisic's former coach] Dieter Hecking, who told me many things from his time in Wolfsburg. And from the national team, I know his status in Croatia.

"He's one of the top three players in our national team and as you know, the best player in the world is Croatian [Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric]. So, Ivan is certainly a top player and I'm happy to have him."

Perisic faces the daunting task of succeeding Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, both of whom departed the Bundesliga champions at the end of last season after trophy-laden spells in Munich.

"He's very skilled, he's good with both feet, he's very aggressive, has a strong header and is a team player," Kovac added of the versatile forward.

"That's why we reacted immediately, even though we had him on our list before. I'm glad he's here and I'm sure he'll give us exactly what we need on the wings - that kind of drive that we need for our play."

Perisic is unavailable for the opening Bundesliga game of the season against Hertha Berlin on Friday due to serving a suspension that carries over from last season.

"I wish it weren't the case," said Kovac of the ban. "But you have to accept the suspension, even though it doesn't exist in this form in Germany. But if that's the case, we accept it!"

Niko Kovac revealed Ivan Perisic is poised to join Bayern Munich after undergoing a medical with the Bundesliga champions.

Perisic has been linked with a move away from Serie A side Inter following Antonio Conte's arrival and the Croatia international had a medical in Munich on Monday.

The former Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg winger is expected to join Bayern on an initial season-long loan deal, which reportedly includes the option to make the move permanent.

Asked about Perisic, Bayern head coach Kovac told reporters following Monday's 3-1 win over Energie Cottbus in the DFB-Pokal: "He [Ivan Perisic] was at the medical check today. And if all this goes well and the last papers are sent back and forth [with Inter], then he will become one of our players."

Kovac has been on the lookout for reinforcements in the wide areas following the departures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben at the end of 2018-19.

Bayern were hoping to sign Germany international Leroy Sane before the Manchester City star suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

"Regardless of our transfers, there are other clubs that buy players. And I don't like the way these [players] are handled to some extent when you put them in the second or third category," Kovac said.

"We should respect each of them. That's what we stand for and that's what I stand for. And that's what I expect from everyone else. Because it's always easy to criticise someone.

"First you don't get this player, then you don't get the other, and then you have an X, Y or Z solution. I don't think that's nice. That's my personal opinion. Maybe some people share this opinion with me."

Kovac was speaking after defending champions Bayern beat fourth-tier side Energie thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman and Leon Goretzka.

"My team did a good job," Kovac said. "We could have retained possession a bit more in the second half but taken altogether I'm satisfied. Energie gave it everything, it was a great spectacle.

"We dominated possession. strangled our opponents but had to watch out for counters again and again. The final pass in the last third must be more precise. We could have done better."

Bayern Munich will begin their defence of the DFB-Pokal without midfielder Javi Martinez after head coach Niko Kovac confirmed the Spain international is out with a knee injury.

Martinez was missing from Bayern's squad for the 2-0 DFL-Supercup defeat to Borussia Dortmund and has been ruled out of the trip to Energie Cottbus on Monday.

The 30-year-old's last appearance came during Bayern's 6-1 Audi Cup win over Fenerbahce in July and Kovac said he would not make the trip to Cottbus.

"Everyone's available apart from Javi," Kovac told reporters.

"Javi Martinez fell on his knee and was in pain, so we're not taking any risks."

Kovac indicated that close-season signing Lucas Hernandez would not be rushed back into action following his recovery from knee surgery.

"We're taking things slow with Lucas," Kovac, whose side get their Bundesliga campaign underway on Friday when Hertha BSC travel to Allianz Arena, said of the former Atletico Madrid defender.

The Bayern coach said his players would take nothing for granted against Cottbus, who were relegated to the fourth tier of German football at the end of 2018-19 season.

"The atmosphere in the team is good, the boys get along - on and off the pitch," said Kovac.

"Cottbus were unfortunately relegated from the third league and we know how difficult it is to play in Cottbus.

"We have two titles to defend and that's what we want to do. You don't achieve anything by sitting back and doing nothing. It's better to get things done sooner rather than later."

Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac lamented his team's mistakes and wastefulness in their DFL-Supercup defeat to Borussia Dortmund, though he was not dissatisfied with the performance.

Dortmund claimed the DFL-Supercup with a 2-0 win on Saturday, Paco Alcacer and Jadon Sancho preventing Bayern from winning the German season's curtain-raiser for a fourth consecutive year.

Thiago Alcantara gifted possession to Sancho, who set up Alcacer for the 48th-minute opener, before the England international scored a goal of his own with 21 minutes remaining.

Reflecting on the result, which saw Kingsley Coman denied twice, Kovac told reporters: "Of course, we're sad we lost the match today. I think we turned in a decent display, not a very good one, but decent.

"We were dominant, we made two mistakes Dortmund capitalised on. We failed to take our chances, which is why we lost the match.

"We're in the fourth week of pre-season. It was the first match where everyone played 90 minutes, you can't expect more in this situation. I'm not dissatisfied, of course it wasn't an outstanding performance.

"We must take our chances and not play into Dortmund's hands, losing the ball and allowing counters."

Bayern star Joshua Kimmich added: "They won deservedly, even if they weren't better. We saw two very weak teams in the first half. We attacked in the second half and immediately conceded a goal.

"Dortmund presented us with a lot of mistakes. The problem was that we made even more mistakes and that Dortmund made the most of these mistakes. The level wasn't so high because both teams made many mistakes."

Dortmund looked the brighter and more imaginative of the two sides for much of the clash and coach Lucien Favre – whose team finished two points adrift of Bayern in the Bundesliga last season – said: "We absolutely wanted to win this match.

"Bayern were very strong and had a lot of possession; 65 per cent I think, that's a lot. Nonetheless, we created clear goalscoring chances and defended patiently and very compactly. We performed very, very well."

"If things continue like that until the end of the season, I'll take it," Dortmund's Marco Reus added. "It was a good start today. It goes without saying that the match is not a real benchmark for the season. But it was still a spectacular game, we were more effective today and deserved to get the victory too."

New signing Sarpreet Singh could be a surprise starter for Bayern Munich in the DFL-Supercup after catching Niko Kovac's eye in pre-season.

Serge Gnabry will miss Saturday's match against Borussia Dortmund because of a muscle issue, leaving a place free on the flank opposite to Kingsley Coman.

Thomas Muller and Alphonso Davies are among the alternatives but New Zealand international Singh, a midfielder by trade, is in contention to continue his rapid rise.

The 20-year-old joined from A-League outfit Wellington Phoenix a month ago and appeared comfortable in friendly appearances against Real Madrid, Arsenal and AC Milan.

"He's a good catch," Kovac said.

"He was planned for the second team but he's shown that he's already a long way ahead of many others.

"I'm very pleased for him and pleasantly surprised.

"With him and Alphonso Davies, you can see they are much further ahead of the others in the second team."

Singh's road to first-team minutes will become tougher if Bayern succeed in their attempts to sign Leroy Sane from Manchester City.

Where the winger will play next season has become a source of angst for both clubs, with Kovac compelled to apologise to opposite number Pep Guardiola after publicly confirming his interest in the 23-year-old.

Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge rebuked Kovac over the comments and the Croatian took no questions on the subject at his news conference on Friday.

"Everything has been said," he explained.

"Now is the present. We have an important match tomorrow and it's all about that. Dortmund have strengthened, they have been in training longer than us.

"It will be an intense game. Dortmund will be our biggest challenger. We need to be red alert tomorrow."

Thomas Muller plundered a hat-trick as Bayern Munich romped to a 6-1 Audi Cup win against Fenerbahce at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

Niko Kovac's side were in ruthless mood against their desperately poor Super Lig opponents, with Renato Sanches, Leon Goretzka and Kingsley Coman adding to Muller's treble.

Max Kruse gave the visiting support something to cheer with a 64th-minute consolation strike, but it did little to take the shine off a consummate attacking performance by the reigning Bundesliga champions.

Bayern – who face Borussia Dortmund in the DFL-Supercup on Saturday – will take on Tottenham in the final on Wednesday, while Fenerbahce will have to pick themselves up for a third-place tie against Real Madrid on the same day.

Sanches got Bayern on their way after 22 minutes, sliding into an empty net after being teed up by Robert Lewandowski.  

That was followed six minutes later by a second, Goretzka driving into the penalty area to meet Coman's cutback with a low, right-footed strike from 12 yards.

Muller – who had been introduced for the injured Serge Gnabry after 20 minutes – made it three in the 31st minute after picking Nabil Dirar's pocket just eight yards out and slotting past a helpless Harun Tekin.

The Fener goalkeeper picked the ball out of his net again five minutes before the interval when the impressive Coman slotted underneath him after Lewandowski's pass was fortuitously deflected into his path.

Vedat Muriqi flashed narrowly wide at the other end but normal service was resumed in the 44th minute, Muller adding his second from the penalty spot after Lewandowski was hauled down by Mauricio Isla.

Muller completed his hat-trick in style shortly before the hour mark, superbly controlling Niklas Sule's long ball with his heel and firing past Tekin, who had inexplicably raced off his line, from 35 yards.

Bayern eased up after a raft of substitutions, allowing Kruse to run at their defence and fire past Sven Ulreich from the edge of the penalty area for the most inconsequential of goals.

It still appeared to be too much for Dirar, who seemingly had to be prevented from walking off the pitch with 20 minutes remaining by his coach Ersun Yanal and a number of team-mates.

Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has revealed his frustration at Niko Kovac's decision to publicly express his confidence that a deal will be struck for Leroy Sane.

Germany international Sane has spent three seasons at Manchester City since leaving Schalke, developing into one of Europe's best wingers.

Bayern have made no secret of their desire to bring the 23-year-old to the Allianz Arena and, although City's reported £90million asking price is said to have initially put them off, boss Kovac recently suggested an agreement could soon be reached.

He said on Sunday: "Our club management is very committed. It is not easy in this day and age, you see, otherwise it would already be sorted. But I am very confident. I assume we can get it [done]."

Speaking ahead of Bayern's Audi Cup clash against Fenerbahce on Tuesday, though, Rummenigge expressed his irritation with Kovac.

"I did not like what he said," he told ZDF. "We have a good relationship with Manchester City and our former coach Pep Guardiola.

"Sane still has a contract there. Neither optimistic nor pessimistic quotes help us in that matter."

Kovac is seeking attacking replacements for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery after both wingers left Bayern at the end of the 2018-19 season.

His need for reinforcements might be accelerated further after Serge Gnabry went off injured in the first half of the game against Fenerbahce.

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac is "very confident" Leroy Sane will join the Bundesliga champions from Manchester City.

Germany international Sane has spent three seasons at City since leaving Schalke, developing into one of Europe's best wingers.

He scored 10 goals in each of the past two Premier League seasons, a particularly impressive feat in the most recent campaign given he only made 21 starts.

There have been suggestions coach Pep Guardiola lost some of his trust in Sane in 2018-19, hence a decrease in his line-up appearances.

Bayern have made no secret of their desire to bring the 23-year-old to the Allianz Arena and, although City's reported £90million asking price is said to have initially put them off, they now appear confident of striking a deal.

"Leroy is a great footballer, he has proved it in England and with the national team," Kovac told German broadcaster ZDF. "We want that.

"Our club management is very committed. It is not easy in this day and age, you see, otherwise it would already be sorted.

"But I am very confident. I assume we can get it [done]."

Bayern have also regularly been linked with Chelsea and England winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, but he is instead reportedly set to sign a new long-term contract at Stamford Bridge.

Kovac is seeking attacking replacements for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery after both wingers left Bayern at the end of the 2018-19 season.

David Alaba admits being on Barcelona's transfer radar is flattering but insists his focus remains on Bayern Munich.

The Austria international has been linked with a move to LaLiga champions Barca in recent days.

Reports in Germany indicate Bayern are unlikely to entertain negotiations for a player viewed as one of the finest and most versatile left-backs in the world.

Alaba joined the Bundesliga giants as a teenager in 2009 and has two seasons left to run on his contract.

"Of course, it's an acknowledgement, it's an honour for me," Alaba told reporters in the United States, where Bayern are based for the International Champions Cup.

However, he added: "My focus is fully on Bayern here in America and on pre-season. I want to concentrate on the essentials."

Bayern are set to return to Germany following their final ICC match against AC Milan in Kansas City.

Jerome Boateng will miss the clash after leaving the tour for private reasons.

Boateng had looked headed for the Allianz Arena exit towards the end of last season, but boss Niko Kovac insists the experienced centre-back will not be short on opportunities during the forthcoming campaign.

"Should he stay, which is what looks like happening right now, he will have the same chances as any other player," Kovac said.

"He is doing very well and I am very happy with his performance so far in pre-season."

Renato Sanches is content to adhere to Niko Kovac's instruction by remaining at Bayern Munich, so long as he gets opportunities to play.

Restricted to four Bundesliga starts last season, midfielder Sanches boosted his case for first-team opportunities with a strong showing in the 3-1 victory over Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup (ICC).

The Portugal international helped Bayern established superiority during the opening 45 minutes and could take on a more prominent role following the end of James Rodriguez's two-season loan deal.

Speaking ahead of the Madrid match, Kovac confirmed the club had told Sanches to forget about finding new employers, advice that has been heeded by the player.

"I'm ready to stay," Sanches told Bild.

"I had good talks with the coach and [club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge]. I think I will stay. Kovac is the boss, he makes the decisions.

"As long as I play, I'm happy."

Bayern have one final ICC fixture to come against AC Milan, though Jerome Boateng will not be involved as he returns to Munich for personal reasons.

The centre-back, another player that seemed headed for the exit towards the end of the 2018-19 season, impressed against LaLiga giants Madrid, keeping Eden Hazard and company goalless until the 84th minute.

Club captain Manuel Neuer welcomed the increasing likelihood of Boateng and Sanches staying in Bavaria.

"We all played well today, Renato as well as Jerome," goalkeeper Neuer said after seeing off Los Blancos in Houston.

"We know what these players are capable of and we're of course happy if they stay."

Niko Kovac says Renato Sanches' future is at Bayern Munich, with the coach ruling out a move for Gareth Bale.

Sanches has struggled to break through since joining Bayern from Benfica in 2016, the 21-year-old midfielder starting four Bundesliga games last term.

But the Portugal international still has a future with the German champions despite his problems, according to Kovac.

"We've told Renato that we'd like him to stay," Kovac said ahead of Saturday's International Champions Cup clash with Real Madrid.

"He's obviously been considering his options after last season, but we explained the reasons behind his limited game time and he understood them. He sees his future with us."

Bayern are seeking attacking reinforcements after the departures of veteran wing duo Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Leroy Sane and Callum Hudson-Odoi have been confirmed as targets by the club but Kovac flatly denied a move for Madrid misfit Bale is possible.

Asked by a reporter if there was a place for the Wales forward in his squad, Kovac replied: "No."

He added: "I would like my German colleagues [journalists] to listen carefully to what I have to say. He [Bale] is a great player, like other players who are also great players.

"I can't tell you whether he really can play somewhere else apart from Real Madrid and if he will even succeed at other clubs. This is something that I don't know and I can't really predict."

Robert Lewandowski is showing the right qualities to be a leader at Bayern Munich, according to coach Niko Kovac.

The Poland striker appeared to be agitating for a move away from the Allianz Arena last year but stayed at the club and scored 40 goals in all competitions to help them to the domestic double.

The 30-year-old said in March he could finish his career at the club and has now confirmed he is in talks over an extension to his contract, which expires in 2021.

Kovac now has little hesitation in trusting the former Borussia Dortmund forward as one of the vice-captains of his side.

"Last season, I wanted to give him the recognition he deserves as a player, due to his performances he has shown not only in Germany but also as the captain of the Polish national team," he said.

"You can see it means a lot to him to be the vice-captain. I'm really happy with his development and he shows what's expected of a leader."

Bayern looked at times last season as though their stranglehold on the Bundesliga was to be broken by Dortmund, but they ended the season in strong fashion to claim a seventh league title in a row and win the DFB-Pokal final against RB Leipzig.

Kovac expects Dortmund to challenge once more given their strong close season in which they have signed Thorgan Hazard, Nico Schulz, Julian Brandt and Mats Hummels, but he is not discounting one or two other surprise contenders.

"All we know is that it was a close race last season between Dortmund and us," he said. "There will be other teams chasing us, but of course we will be the team everyone in the Bundesliga wants to catch.

"I think Dortmund have made some good signings. As I mentioned before, it was a really close race between us two for the title. We'll have to see; you never know.

"I think maybe [Bayer] Leverkusen will play an important role with their new coach [Peter] Bosz, who plays very good football, very attacking football. We have to count them as well as a competitor for the German title.

"Leipzig were very strong last season. Now they have signed a new coach [Julian Nagelsmann], so we'll have to see. We have to give them some time, see how they develop with the new coach, but I think they'll be a serious opponent as well. And then maybe another surprising team, you never know in the Bundesliga, so we will have to see what happens."

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