In a perfect world, Philippe Coutinho would improve on his shooting and become a regular scorer. Doing so would, in the eyes of many, elevate the playmaker to something at least not far off world class. Brendan Rodgers, though, thinks that even if he never becomes a regular scorer, he will be counted amongst the game’s best midfielders in the mould of Luka Modric.
"When you look at the type of player he is, you look at Modric," said the Liverpool manager. "He doesn’t maybe have the big goal scoring player, but he is a world class player, a continuity player. He can make all the passes and put the ball in behind, and he gets the odd goal from outside the box. He is a top class player who can create and who is so important in opening doors up for his team.
"Toni Kroos is another player of that type—a wonderful footballer and great passer. They maybe don’t get as many goals given how good their technique is, but their value is to sit behind the ball and create goals for others. Their role isn’t to score 20 a season. Phil’s numbers will improve, but it is not the be all and end all if he doesn’t get 20 a season."
Few will expect Coutinho to become a 20 goal scorer, even if he does improve his shooting. Steven Gerrard, in his prime and taking penalties, only eclipsed the 20 goal mark on three occasions—and that’s taking into account all competitions. In the league alone, the Liverpool captain’s best return was 16 in the 2008-09 season. Double digits and a return in the low-teens for Coutinho, then, might be a more reasonable hope.
If those hopes aren’t realised, Modric doesn’t seem an entirely misplaced point of reference for a player of Coutinho’s talents. And Liverpool’s Brazilian is already a better scorer than the Croatian playmaker, whose best return with Tottenham and Real Madrid was five goals in all competitions. Coutinho scored five for Liverpool last year in just the league and six in all competitions with Inter and Liverpool in 2012-13.