Philippe Coutinho filled a Lionel Messi role while on the books at Liverpool, with Frank de Boer saying the Brazilian “doesn’t fit the puzzle” now that he has joined an Argentine superstar at Barcelona.
Coutinho revelled in that role and offered enough to the Reds cause to earn himself a big-money transfer to Camp Nou during the winter window of 2018.
The 27-year-old has failed to live up to his billing in Catalunya, with struggles for form ultimately leading to him being loaned out to German giants Bayern Munich on a season-long agreement.
That move has not worked out as planned either, leading to more questions of Coutinho’s future, with De Boer suggesting that the South American has been unable to operate in the shadow of others after losing his standing as the main man on Merseyside.
The former Barca star told talkSPORT: "I think Coutinho was a player where everything [went through] him, every ball went to him at Liverpool.
"He could probably do less work, basically what Messi does with Barcelona.
"And the thing is you see how everything works together, it's like a machine.
"If one is not doing it it's fine maybe, they can handle that, but if it's two similar types of players, that they also want every ball and have that special position in the team, then you see how vulnerable a team can be.
"I think we saw that with Barcelona. There's only one that can do that now and that is Messi.
"The team is adapting and if you have to adapt for two players like this, it's difficult.
"I think Coutinho is an unbelievable player but sometimes he doesn't fit the puzzle and maybe with another club it will go perfectly well.
"It doesn't mean he is a bad player. It doesn't mean that you are not a great player when you can't play for Barcelona - no.
"It sometimes doesn't fit your style of play and sometimes you have bad luck, not bad luck, that Messi's around and he has that role, and then you have to do a different role that doesn't suit you a little bit.
"So it's a shame for Coutinho but I think now he will do okay."
Coutinho will be due back at Barcelona when the 2019-20 campaign comes to a close at Bayern, with the Bundesliga readying itself for a return amid the coronavirus pandemic, but transfer gossip suggests that another move may be on the cards – with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham said to be keen on taking a proven Premier League performer back to England.