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'Coutinho can be Barcelona's next Iniesta' - Brazilian needs positional tweak, says former director

15:29 GMT+3 03/05/2019
Philippe Coutinho Barcelona 2018-19
The South American has struggled to make the expected impact at Camp Nou, but Robert Fernandez believes he can still thrive in Catalunya

Philippe Coutinho was taken to Barcelona to become the next Andres Iniesta, claims former director Robert Fernandez, and can still fulfil that potential if played in the right position.

Much was expected of the Brazil international when he was acquired from Liverpool in the winter transfer window of 2018.

His creative instincts were expected to slot seamlessly into a star-studded squad alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Coutinho has, however, struggled to make the expected impact and seen a loyal fan base turn on him as a result.

Questions have been asked of his future, with Goal revealing that he intends to stay put, and Fernandez believes he can prosper if Ernesto Valverde tweaks his role.

Barca’s ex-director of football said in Spanish publication Sport: “It's important to find the right position for him.

“It's clear he's suffered a lot in recent matches, you can see it in his face and in his body language.

“It isn't easy playing for Barcelona, although Coutinho is a great footballer.”

Fernandez added on the chances of a South American filling the shoes of a club icon: “I believe he'd do better in midfield.

“His arrival was a personal decision of mine because I felt he could replace Iniesta. Well, as much as anyone can because Iniesta is irreplaceable.”

Coutinho can still count on the support of many of those around him in Catalunya.

Lionel Messi is among those to have offered his backing, with the Barcelona talisman telling Movistar Plus of the jeers from the stands which could be heard during a 3-0 Champions League semi-final victory over Liverpool: “We are in a defining moment and it is not time to criticise anyone.

“It is time to make everything happen as we talked at the beginning of the season.

“It is ugly to see a team-mate get booed like that, we must all be together and support.”

Fernandez believes such words will work in Coutinho’s favour, with the 26-year-old needing to be freed to focus on his football.

“What Philippe needs right now is help,” said Fernandez.

“The gesture from Messi was priceless.”

Coutinho has contributed 11 goals and five assists to the Barcelona cause this season, with the Blaugrana still in position to claim a La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey treble.