Philippe Coutinho out for weeks after undergoing ankle surgery
Last Updated: 24/04/20 4:49pm
Bayern Munich midfielder Philippe Coutinho underwent minor surgery on his right ankle on Friday and will start his rehabilitation programme in about two weeks.
The 27-year-old Brazil international, on loan from Barcelona for one season, could be back fit for the remainder of the Bundesliga campaign, which has been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Coutinho's agent, Kia Joorabchian, this month told Sky Sports News his client would "love" to come back to the Premier League, but questioned what the financial conditions of all clubs would be following the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bundesliga is expected to restart some time next month with games played without spectators, though an exact date will likely be decided next week at a government meeting.
Bayern are four points clear at the top of the table and in the hunt for a record-extending eighth straight league crown.
Sky Sports' Richard Morgan:
Bayern wasted little time bringing the Brazil international to the Allianz last August, with the Bundesliga champions happy to cover his £11m-a-year wage, as well as an initial £8m loan fee, before deciding whether to make his move permanent at the end of this season.
The 27-year-old arrived in Munich having spearheaded his country's triumph in last summer's Copa America on home soil, only for a change of manager and a failure to again identify his best role to stymie his progress.
Coutinho was benched under Hansi Flick, who replaced Niko Kovac last November, with the new boss instead preferring Ivan Perisic and Leon Goretzka as he set the up team differently to his predecessor.
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The playmaker has been deployed on both the left and right of a three-man forward line, as well as an attacking midfielder in what Flick believes is his "best position", although one that has also brought him into conflict for the No 10 role with Bayern stalwart - and a player revitalised this season - Thomas Muller.
"Philippe is a gifted footballer," said Flick at the turn of the year. "I don't think we've integrated him enough yet [to see his best], though. It's not been easy for him coming to a new country, but he's getting better all the time. Hopefully, he'll progress further again and show what class he has. I hope the dam breaks and he shows the quality he's got."
The stats seem to suggest Coutinho is most effective when used on the left-hand side of Bayern's front three, allowing him to cut in from that flank on to his more favoured right foot, as he was with great success towards the end of 2019.
In his last eight games before the winter break, Coutinho contributed five goals and three assists in his best run of the season, including the type of virtuoso display in a 6-1 win over Werder Bremen that got him his big-money move to Barca in the first place.
But that hat-trick and two assists last December do not seem to have convinced the club to spend the £109m needed to keep the player at the Allianz beyond this season, as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge hinted to Bild in February.
"Why is [the transfer] not decisive? This is a difficult question," said the Bayern chief. "I think he played well in some games, while in others he gave the impression of being a little inhibited."
Rummenigge's assessment is supported by Brazilian journalist Natalie Gedra, who told skysports.com: "Coutinho's main problem is his mentality. He had some good moments in Bayern, but did not show the consistency. Again, as at Barca, the pressure of having to work in a different club was too much for him to handle.
"During his best spell with Brazil, in the qualifiers for Russia 2018, he played more on the left of a front three, but having the freedom to go back and act as a No 10," says Gedra. "It was kind of a mix, and he did really well. But that period also shows how he can shine when the team is doing really well, but how he is not the kind of player who shines and sort things out by himself when they're not going really well."
Finding the right role, and surroundings, both appear key to getting the best out of Coutinho.