Hail the King: How teenager Coman is capitalising on his Bayern Munich chance
The last week of football passed with Frenchmen in focus. In England, people have been debating Anthony Martial’s best position. Everywhere else, they’ve been discussing Karim Benzema, Mathieu Valbuena and a sex-tape scandal.
The latter pair have been excluded from Didier Deschamps’ France squad for friendlies with Germany and England; blink and you might have missed who has actually been included in les Blues' ranks. At the end of a week in which sensationalism got even more sensational, the news that Kingsley Coman had snuck into the senior national setup went largely unnoticed.
The teenage winger, who followed Arturo Vidal from Juventus to Bayern Munich this summer, is in line for his senior France debut in the coming days. Despite arguably being more impressive in Bavaria than the all-action Vidal so far, it is quite unfathomable that Coman has received such little attention of late.
“I know my qualities better than anyone,” he had told die Roten after signing, but few others noted them until he destroyed compatriot Mathieu Debuchy in the 5-1 romp of Arsenal a week ago. His arrival at the Allianz Arena – on an initial two-year loan deal with an option to buy – was hardly a headline-grabbing transfer; while Martial flew into Manchester to fanfare on deadline day, Coman’s move to Munich a day before travelled under the radar.
Some had been surprised by his signing at first. There was a curiosity about Coman, a player who never really featured for a sustained period for either Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain. His coaches were among the few people who knew what he was about. “Coman has a lot of quality going forward,” Pep Guardiola said. “I can only say good things about him.”
Under the Catalan’s guidance, the youngster has featured a respectable 13 times so far this term. Buoyed by the Bayern boss’s faith, he has quickly found top gear in Munich.
The manner in which he constantly dumped Debuchy on the ground - and brought the Bayern support increasingly to fever pitch - was reminiscent of a fully-fit Franck Ribery at his best
Scoring two goals and assisting six in all competitions, Coman’s thrusts down the wing have in turn thrust him into the reckoning for a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad. “He's playing regularly, is good in many positions and has the quality of power and penetration,” explained Bleus boss Deschamps. Massimiliano Allegri and Laurent Blanc, meanwhile, have publicly lamented their loss, with both managers now left to wonder what Coman might have brought them over a longer period.
The speed and intelligence inherent to the 19-year-old’s game have been welcome at Bayern. His breaks into the box are executed with the polish of a Class A prospect. The manner in which he constantly dumped Debuchy on the ground – and brought the Bayern support increasingly to fever pitch – was reminiscent of a fully-fit Franck Ribery at his best.
“The two have much in common,” observed compatriot Willy Sagnol, the Bavarians’ former right-back. It is a comparison Guardiola has clamped down on, attempting to nurture and protect: “Coman must eat a lot of soup to reach the level of Franck at this club.”
Except that is partly the point. The youngster’s fledgling displays already indicate he could one day attain such status. His numbers are more than was expected at this stage. It is the consistency that amazes above all else, with his speed of adaptation to the top level completely unexpected. With every passing game, his performances appear to take on greater significance. Bayern weren't looking for a leader when they loaned him but they may even have inadvertently stumbled upon one.
Coming of age
Under Guardiola’s tutelage, he has started to play with a decisiveness that suggests he is ready to graduate from the periphery to the centre stage
PSG’s youngest-ever debutant arrived at Sabener Strasse with the credentials of a champion. Seeking to grow his medal collection with his fourth league title in a row – and with a third different team in a third different country – Coman also sought a move that would be best for his own development. Under Guardiola’s tutelage, he has started to play with a decisiveness that suggests he is ready to graduate from the periphery to the centre stage.
There is a temptation to conclude that anybody could waltz into such a talented line-up and perform; the cases of Xherdan Shaqiri and Mario Gotze’s squandered potential suggest otherwise, however. Both serve as effective warnings. Without a free pass into the starting XI, Coman has shown intelligence in interpreting his coach’s specific demands of press, pass and move. In return, his application has been met with trust.
“Guardiola has allowed me to play regularly. I'm very happy,” said the 19-year-old. “I can feel he has confidence in me. Everything happened so quickly, I was able to show what I can do straight away.”
Coman’s subtle skills provide the calm to fellow summer signing Douglas Costa’s storm on the opposite flank. “Our style has much improved with Coman and Costa,” Guardiola commented. “We can use the whole pitch, and our strikers get more chances.”
With Ribery and Arjen Robben on first-name terms with the club’s medics due to frequent injuries, Coman could become even more important to the Bavarians over the coming months
The goalscoring stats of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller reflect the pair’s potency, but they rely on service from elsewhere to put the ball in the back of the net with such regularity. A lack of width was bemoaned as Bayern bowed out to Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League last term, and it is hoped that Costa and Coman can provide that missing ingredient this time around.
Guardiola has left no stone unturned in his attempt to win the elusive European crown with Bayern at the third time of asking. With Ribery and Arjen Robben on first-name terms with the club’s medics due to frequent injuries, Coman could become even more important to the Bavarians over the coming months.
The double-winner with PSG and Juventus made his final appearance for the Old Lady in last season’s Champions League final. Come the end of this campaign, he could very well find himself in the same position with Bayern – only perhaps with a winner’s medal around his neck this time. If Coman were to achieve that, it would be impossible to leave him out of the France squad for the European Championship on home soil. But he'd best keep eating that soup anyway.