Spanish journalist believes Philippe Coutinho is hurt by Lionel Messi's presence at Barcelona

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Much has been made recently about Philippe Coutinho’s perceived struggles at Barcelona.

The Brazilian playmaker has struggled for game-time at the Camp Nou, with seven of his 17 appearances in the league this season coming from the bench.

Barcelona paid a lot of money for Coutinho - the fee paid to Liverpool could reach £142 million - so it’s concerning that Ernesto Valverde can’t find a permanent place for him in his starting line-up.

Arthur and Arturo Vidal are preferred in midfield while Ousmane Dembele has played well since November and isn’t losing his place alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in attack.

It’s a tricky situation for the 26-year-old, then, who won’t want to give up on his dream of being a success at Barca despite rumours claiming he could soon leave.

It will be on Valverde to find a solution to the problem and he might be interested to hear the issue that Spanish journalist Joaquim Piera believes Messi presents to Coutinho.

Speaking to Bleacher Report, Piera, who works for Sport, believes Messi’s presence as a No.10 makes it hard to find a spot for Coutinho to flourish in the team.

Barcelona v Espanyol - Spanish Copa del Rey

Messi's presence hurts Coutinho

"Coutinho is powerful in one-on-ones and he's got the skill to cut in from wide, which has been a deficit in Barca in the last few decades, and his qualities allow him to play in different positions," Piera said.

"The challenge for Barcelona is to create a position custom-made for him like Barca did with Messi. It's obvious, though, there is not a trainer in the world who can make a team with two big tactical roles very well determined and personified - in this case one for Messi and the other for Coutinho.

Barcelona v Espanyol - Spanish Copa del Rey

"What I believe about Coutinho is that he is a huge player, the kind of player that makes you win big titles, and he has been part of very competitive teams, but with Messi there, the challenge is for the trainer to know how to create a place for him.

"If it were down to me, I would make him play in the interior left midfield position, but that was [Andres] Iniesta's position, and if you compare Coutinho with Iniesta, unfortunately that's going to end badly for Coutinho."

Trying to fill Iniesta’s shoes was a near-impossible task and perhaps the weight of it has hurt Coutinho.

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