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.

Cristiano Ronaldo believes a 25-year-old version of himself would be worth up to €300million in today's transfer market.

Juventus splashed out €112m including add-ons when they signed the Portugal captain from Real Madrid in 2018.

Only five players – Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Joao Felix, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho – have commanded larger fees.

Two members of the quintet made their mega-money moves as teenagers and Ronaldo, now 34, has reservations about the increasing prices for youngsters who are yet to prove themselves at the top level.

"Today there is a lot of focus on potential and the football industry is different," the superstar forward told Portuguese broadcaster TVI.

"I'll put the case of Joao Felix aside. Nowadays any player is worth €100m, even without proof. There is more money in football.

"Central defenders and goalkeepers are worth €70million, €80million.

"I do not agree with it, but this is the world we live in. The market is like that, we have to respect it."

Ronaldo formerly held the all-time transfer fee record after Madrid forked out €94m to prise him away from Manchester United in 2009.

Asked how much he would be worth aged 25 in modern terms, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner replied: "It is hard to calculate.

"If a goalkeeper is worth €75m, a player who has done what I had must be worth three to four times more. Easy.

"But I have no such illusion."

Jurgen Klopp revealed Liverpool could not afford to bring Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield as he backed the attacker to shine at Bayern Munich.

Coutinho's move to the Bundesliga champions was confirmed on Monday, the Brazil international joining on a season-long loan from Barcelona with Bayern holding an option to buy for €120million.

The 27-year-old had also been linked with a return to Liverpool, where he starred for five seasons before joining Barca.

Klopp said the European champions could not spend the money required to sign Coutinho, with Bayern paying an €8.5m loan fee and the star's wages.

"It sounds a bit strange, but we could not afford it," he said at the Sport Bild awards on Monday.

"We have already spent the money that we got for him."

Klopp backed Coutinho to shine for Bayern after struggling to have an impact at Barcelona.

"He's a great player, a great boy," the former Borussia Dortmund coach said.

"We were reluctant to sell him, but Barcelona forced us with money, so to speak.

"He is a player who can change games for the positive. It's not that nice for Dortmund, but it's a great transfer for Bayern and the Bundesliga."

Bayern Munich asked retired Arjen Robben for permission before giving new signing Philippe Coutinho his old No.10 shirt and club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes the Brazilian is a worthy successor.

After a difficult 18-month spell with Barcelona, Coutinho completed a season-long loan move to Bayern on Monday, with the German champions able to make the switch permanent for €120million.

Bayern have been undertaking something of a rebuild in recent months, with various older players being moved on or retiring.

Chief among those are Franck Ribery and Robben, with the latter opting to hang up his boots after a 10-year spell at the club that saw him win 20 trophies.

Given their respective contributions to Bayern, Rummenigge confirmed they intended to leave the No.7 and No.10 jerseys unoccupied, but Robben gave permission for Coutinho to take his.

When asked about where Coutinho will play, Rummenigge told a news conference: "Hasan [Salihamidzic, sporting director] and Niko [Kovac, coach] have already agreed on all the tactical variants, and Hasan had a talk with Arjen Robben this morning.

"We did not want to give his number away for the time being, as a special gesture, but we also wanted to show how important and valuable this is.

"It was also a very important sign for Philippe that the club is also fully behind him, so Arjen has no problem at all, he wishes him all the best, and he is a more than worthy successor."

Coutinho could make his Bayern debut on Saturday when they travel to Gelsenkirchen to face Schalke in the Bundesliga.

Three months on from Rafinha's emotional farewell, there is a Brazilian back at Bayern Munich.

Thiago Alcantara, a Spain international born to Brazilian parents, had been the club's lone ongoing link to the country until Philippe Coutinho formally arrived from Barcelona on Monday.

The Vasco de Gama product has a lot to live up to Allianz Arena, where many of his compatriots have shone in the past.

An option for Bayern to buy the attacking midfielder on a permanent basis hints at a bright future in Bavaria, but can he emulate the likes of these former favourites?

 

Giovane Elber

The only non-European member of the club's hall of fame was a human highlight reel throughout his six excellent seasons.

Signed from Stuttgart in 1997, the 'Samba Striker' wrote his name into the annals by forging an entertaining and prolific partnership with target man Carsten Jancker.

Elber scored the bulk of goals - 140 of them in all competitions - to help deliver four Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokal triumphs and a Champions League crown in 2001.

The fringe Selecao forward signed off with a league-high 21 goals in his final season in Germany before joining Lyon in 2003.

 

Ze Roberto

Versatile, reliable, valuable.

Ze Roberto favoured function over flair as he rivalled Elber's longevity in Bavaria and won as many Bundesliga titles.

Three were secured in the four years after his switch from Bayer Leverkusen, but a change in direction under Felix Magath led to a divorce between player and club.

Magath soon made way and Ze Roberto returned from South America on a two-season loan deal that showcased his development into an intelligent, crafty, goal-scoring central midfielder.

 

Paulo Sergio

Elber's success prompted the German giants to invest in another Brazilian attacker and together they exacted European revenge on Manchester United.

In the second of his three seasons at Bayern, striker Sergio netted a vital late winner in a 1-0 first-leg triumph at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2001.

Elber then found the net in a 2-1 victory in the return encounter to help confirm the club's progression en route to continental glory.

Though the goals dried up after a fine first season, former Roma man Sergio continued to trouble United as he put another past Alex Ferguson's men less than a year on from their previous meeting.

Lucio

Like Sergio and Ze Roberto before him, Lucio cut his teeth in the Bundesliga at Bayern's rivals Leverkusen.

The elegant centre-back traded up in 2004 and stayed for five years, winning three domestic doubles in that time.

Lucio attracted as much acclaim for his ability to carry the ball forward as his faultless defending and scored seven goals in 144 top-flight appearances during his stay.

Spells at Inter, Juventus and Sao Paulo followed for the 2002 World Cup winner, who continues to play in his homeland aged 41.

 

Dante

Schooled in the same ball-playing style as Lucio, defender Dante squeezed an incredible amount of silverware into three seasons under Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.

The left-footer won the treble in his first campaign at the club and barely veered from that level, lifting the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup to go with another two Bundesliga titles.

A cult figure wherever he goes, the afroed ex-Borussia Monchengladbach player left Bayern with a full trophy cabinet when he moved to Wolfsburg in 2015.

 

Rafinha

"He was always there when the team needed him," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said as Rafinha said goodbye to the club in May.

At right-back or left, as Philipp Lahm's understudy or Joshua Kimmich's mentor, Rafinha found ways to make himself useful.

He might only have won four caps for Brazil but the diminutive and adaptable defender was a big contributor at club level, making 266 appearances during a Bayern career spanning eight seasons.

Seven successive titles cemented a rich legacy.

Philippe Coutinho accepts his time at Barcelona "didn't work out" the way he had hoped after he completed a loan move to Bayern Munich on Monday.

Coutinho joined Barca from Liverpool in January 2018 in a deal potentially worth a reported €160million and things began promisingly, as he scored eight goals in his first 18 LaLiga games.

However, he struggled for consistency and failed to hold down a spot in the starting XI last season, playing only 22 matches from the beginning.

Coutinho became a scapegoat for fans and came in for increased criticism – as did coach Ernesto Valverde and team-mate Ivan Rakitic – after Barca's Champions League semi-final exit to Liverpool, despite them winning the first leg 3-0.

The Brazil international had been suggested as a potential makeweight in a deal to take Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain back to Camp Nou, but Bayern secured his loan signing with a €120m purchase option.

Coutinho acknowledges things could have gone better in LaLiga but insists he is excited to be joining the German champions.

"Concerning Barcelona, things didn't work out the way we wanted," Coutinho told reporters at his Bayern presentation.

"But that's the past. This is a new club, a big club, an important club. I hope I'll be here for a long time and win lots of titles."

Despite the difficulties Coutinho had at Barca, he is adamant it was not all a negative experience – though he had no doubts about leaving for Bayern.

"Within those years I did have great experiences," he said. "I learnt a lot, won a lot with that club and then we had the Copa America, which I won with Brazil and that was really important.

"Now I have a chance at a new club, a big club. I didn't have any doubts when Hasan [Salihamidzic, Bayern sporting director] called me.

"He really wanted me to come here, so they flew to Barcelona, we met, they showed me the project and that's why I really want to thank them, because from the first second [it was clear] how they see me. That was important for me to see."

Coutinho could make his debut away to Schalke on Saturday.

Philippe Coutinho's loan move to Bayern Munich is complete and so begins the club's season-long assessment of whether to activate their option to buy him on a permanent basis.

The former Liverpool star has suffered a loss of form since making a big-money move to Barcelona in 2018 and will now have the chance to reinvent himself in the Bundesliga.

While Bayern have chased Leroy Sane throughout the transfer window, it appears Coutinho and Ivan Perisic - signed on loan from Inter - will be the players tasked with replacing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Niko Kovac must also fill the creative void left by James Rodriguez's return to Real Madrid and Coutinho, who is accustomed to playing centrally, could be anointed chief playmaker.

Here, we use Opta data to assess the merits of such a move, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of his game in comparison James.

 

Direct and dangerous

Shedding the more pedestrian James and deploying Coutinho in his place should give Bayern a greater degree of dynamism going forward.

The Brazilian causes problems with his willingness and ability to beat defenders, traits not exhibited quite so regularly by James.

Over the past two seasons, Coutinho attempted an average of 2.4 more dribbles per match and completed them with a success rate of 58.1 per cent.

James trusts less in his ability to go beyond markers, a dribble success rate of 44.2 per cent explaining his hesitance.

Yet, as the silky former Real Madrid man showcased at the Allianz Arena, his skills in other departments are sharper than most.

 

Bayern to get creative with solution to missing assists

James tallied 67 appearances across all competitions in his two seasons with Bayern.

Coutinho, in the same period, featured in 96 matches for Liverpool and Barcelona, clocking up over 2,000 more on-field minutes.

Despite the huge discrepancy, the pair each recorded 19 assists.

James, with his 89.2 per cent passing accuracy, created 3.5 chances per 90 minutes, during which he averaged 95 touches.

He outperformed Coutinho in both departments, the former Anfield favourite averaging 2.1 chances created from 82 touches per game.

Perisic will help bridge the gap, but it seems Robert Lewandowski might have to make peace with a less consistent supply line this season.

 

New firepower in front of goal

Where the champions can reasonably expect clear return on their investment is in goals scored.

Despite well-documented difficulties, Coutinho still did his part at Barca by notching 13 times in LaLiga. Those goals contributed to a solid combined two-season tally of 33, averaging out at 0.5 per 90 minutes.

James, the Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup, managed seven in each of his Bundesliga campaigns.

He struck a total of 15 times in all for Bayern, having averaged 2.3 shots and 3.5 touches in the opposition box per match.

Coutinho's role is still to be determined and how his team-mates receive him remains to be seen, but an average of 3.3 shots and 4.6 touches in the opposition box over the course of 90 minutes portrays a player who will actively seek out his own opportunities.

Philippe Coutinho has completed his season-long loan move from Barcelona to Bayern Munich, who have an option to make the deal permanent for €120million.

LaLiga champions Barca revealed the potential future fee is on top of an initial €8.5m loan payment.

The figures fall short of the €160m deal that Barca negotiated with Liverpool in January 2018.

Coutinho's switch from England to Spain attracted plenty of fanfare but he failed to deliver on expectations and spent periods out of Ernesto Valverde's preferred XI last season.

Barca are reported to have offered the midfield misfit to Paris Saint-Germain in a player-plus-cash exchange for Neymar.

Premier League clubs Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham were also linked with the former Inter man, but Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said the 27-year-old expressed firm interest in a move to Allianz Arena.

"Philippe made it very clear to us during the negotiations in Barcelona that he absolutely wanted to move to Bayern," Salihamidzic said.

"He's a world-class player with great ability, who we can deploy in a number of positions in our forward line, so the Bayern squad has gained even more quality.

"Philippe Coutinho will help us achieve the ambitious targets we've set for this season."

An exciting scorer and provider at Anfield, his chief responsibility under Niko Kovac will be to fill the creative void left by James Rodriguez's return to Real Madrid after a two-season loan spell.

Coutinho said: "For me, this move means a new challenge in a new country with one of the best clubs in Europe.

"I'm very much looking forward to that.

"Like Bayern, I have big ambitions and I'm convinced that I can achieve them together with my new team-mates."

On Sunday, the Bundesliga club sealed the signing of French midfielder Mickael Cuisance from Borussia Monchengladbach on a five-year contract, while Ivan Perisic joined on loan from Inter last week.

The three new additions further reinforce Kovac's squad following the departures of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery at the end of the last title-winning campaign.

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