Takumi Minamino has passed his medical and is now set to officially become Liverpool’s first ever Japanese player on January 1. He joins from Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg for around £7.25million.
So, let’s talk about this.
First things first, the deal itself in general. To us mere mortals, £7.25m is a ridiculous, life-changing amount of money. In football terms that’s loose change that you’ll just happen upon when putting on a pair of jeans you last wore on a night out. ‘Oh, there’s a couple quid in here, belter. That kinda thing.
Also if reports are to be true, Minamino’s teammate Erling Braut Håland is reportedly requesting £8m a year in wages from his next side, expected to be either Manchester United or Borussia Dortmund. So yeah, he’s an absolute snip at £7.25m. We’re probably going to make the money back from shirt sales in Japan alone.
Now onto the player himself — our new No.18 becomes the third former Red Bull Salzburg player in our current squad after Sadio Mané and Naby Keïta moved to Anfield.
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He is 24 years old, has signed a long-term contract and can play both on the wings and behind the striker — perfect for us as, in my opinion, that’s somewhere we need strengthening.
Despite his attacking position, Minamino is an industrious player as we saw first hand in our two encounters against the Austrian side in the Champions League group stage. Aside from his defensive work rate, which no doubt is one of the reasons Klopp was so attracted to the prospect of signing him, on the ball he is a threat.
We’ve all seen the video of Minamino catching that sweet volley against us that cuts to Klopp smiling, with a look that has ‘I will sign you’ plastered all over it. Well, at that time we had reportedly already began negotiations.
That goal was just a glimpse of what he’s capable of. Despite his small stature, Minamino is quite difficult to dispossess due mainly to his speed, quick feet, dribbling ability and impeccable balance.
Last season, the Japanese playmaker featured 45 times for his current employers, scoring 14 goals and laying on 10 assists — respectable numbers, for sure.
This season however, Minamino appears to have taken his game to a whole new level as he already has 20 goal involvements (nine goals and 11 assists) in 22 games, with five of those involvements coming in the Champions League, a competition in which he is eligible to represent Liverpool this season.
Aside from his work rate and his obvious ability, one of the things that excites me most about this transfer is just the obvious sense it makes due to the fact that he isn’t going to demand to start — a problem we might have if we sign Timo Werner, for example.
He knows the quality we already possess which means that, although he will no doubt work hard to try win a space, we also have time to integrate him as a willing squad player.
Another exciting thing for me about this transfer is the knock on effect I expect it to have on Kop legend Divock Origi. At the moment, the Belgian is being shifted out wide whenever he features with either Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino through the middle. This is probably due to the fact that we haven’t got enough players to be able to rest all the front three at once without shifting our formation too much.
Minamino’s arrival as a back up on the wings allows for Origi to be put back in his preferred central role and, hopefully, back in amongst the goals. As a long time Origi fan, the Belgian’s revival has been one of the most satisfying things I have seen and I have a feeling that Minamino’s arrival can only help him continue down this road.
I’ve heard and read a lot of stuff saying we finally have a replacement for Philippe Coutinho and, yes, that’s loosely true to some extent. The transfer fees are similar, they’re creative midfielders and they can play in most of the advanced roles. That’s where those comparisons end, though.
Aside from a positional sense, and maybe his stature, Minamino is nothing like Coutinho in his style of play. He has raw qualities that Phil had when he first joined but he’s completely different to our former No.10.
I would liken Minamino more to Atalanta’s Alejandro Gómez or Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne. Obviously he isn’t at their level yet, but with Klopp’s guidance you never know. Although he’s capable of shooting from distance, Minamino is more of a speedy dribbler than a technical playmaker and I think that’s something that fans need to understand.
Yes of course he has an eye for a pass and a knack for assisting, but don’t expect him to be pinging balls about or banging in 40-yard free-kicks. He will, however, get the ball, lift his head and drive at players. In my book, that’s exciting and just adds an important cog to the machine that has become Europe’s best counter-attacking side.
Already I have heard the phrase ‘Scouse samurai’ and, although it’s cheesy, I love it — it’s hilarious and hopefully very apt. There will be doubters and sceptics who no doubt will say ‘he can only do it in Austria’. To that I say ‘chill, super scout’. He helped run our defence ragged at Anfield so I’m not too concerned.
Oh, and trust in Klopp. The whole world seemed to doubt the signings of Mané and Salah, so who knows?