Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes Philippe Coutinho has all the attributes to become a playmaker similar to Real Madrid duo Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Over the last couple of months the Brazil international, who signed a new long-term contract which runs until the summer of 2020 on Tuesday, has enjoyed arguably his best spell since arriving at Anfield in the 2013 January transfer window.
His threat around goal could improve – the 22-year-old has scored just twice and provided four assists this season – but Rodgers is not concerned if he develops into a player like either of those currently running the midfield of the reigning European champions.
“If you look at that type of player he is, you look at Modric,” the Reds boss said. “He doesn’t have a big goalscoring record, but he is a world-class player, a continuity player.
“He can make 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 the game who is so important in opening up doors for the team.
“Toni Kroos is another of that type; a wonderful footballer and great passer.
“They maybe don’t get as many goals for what their technique is, but their role is to sit behind the ball and create goals for others.
“Their role is not 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.”
Rodgers believes Coutinho’s threat in the final third will increase with experience, but he is now starting to take a greater responsibility in the team’s attacking endeavours.
“His game is about making and creating the goals, but as he gets more experienced he will understand better and there will be other players to make those final passes and that will allow him to penetrate further forward,” Rodgers added.
“He has a wonderful strike on him, so it will be about arriving into areas where he can make movements without the ball.
“There are areas to improve in the accuracy on his shooting; he has a wonderful move to work the space but at times you see him dragging the shot.
“At the minute I don’t have too many complaints about him as he’s pressing the game really well, he is being aggressive in hunting the ball and his two assists at the weekend were sublime.
“Hopefully in years to come the goals will come more readily for him.”
Coutinho could find himself rested for Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay at Sky Bet Championship side Bolton as Rodgers is conscious not to burn out one of his brightest attacking talents.
Liverpool have played virtually twice a week since Christmas, with their involvement in the Capital One Cup two-legged semi-final defeat to Chelsea, and there will be no let-up with European football returning this month with a home and away tie against Besiktas in the Europa League.
While he did not bolster his squad in the transfer window, Rodgers is confident there is enough depth to see them through to a strong finish to the season.
“I think we played 42 games last year and we’ve played 39 up to now,” he said. “The idea (in the summer) was to bring in a squad which could cope with that.
“Of course there is a lot of development to take place with those players, but we brought them in because we want to be in competitions until late on and challenging for league titles, and for that you need to have a good squad.
“It was a difficult start to the season for other teams with full squads playing well, but for us we needed to find our identity again and we’ve got that and I think our best football is ahead of us.
“After that (Chelsea) game there was maybe a feeling as to whether it would provoke a negative reaction to our season, but it has only prompted our momentum. It has given us great encouragement.”