As demonstrated by his patient approach to integrating players — including Andy Robertson and Fabinho — into the first-team setup during his time as Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp will know there is no need to rush Takumi Minamino.
Described by rival fans as ‘the flop of the season’, the Japanese has been harassed undeservedly, especially considering the circumstances in which he found himself upon first arriving on Merseyside.
The Reds agreed a deal — which saw them activate the midfielder’s £7.25 million release clause — in December 2019, before joining officially in January.
Arriving from Austrian outfit RB Salzburg, it was always going to prove a difficult task competing for a starting berth in a squad fresh from winning the Champions League and currently dominating their domestic division. However, Klopp has made it clear that he sees the 25-year-old battling for his place, rather than simply being there to make up the numbers.
Clearly Minamino’s performance at Anfield for his former club was a catalyst for the deal being struck to move him to England — the manager has seen something he likes, and the German’s judgement must be trusted.
So far, he has been limited to just seven appearances across all competitions and has completed a full 90 minutes on just the one occasion, against Chelsea in the FA Cup. It was a game in which his work rate could hardly be questioned, though a lack of match sharpness was noticeable. There remains plenty of time and his efforts did not go unnoticed with Klopp, who stated that he could have been used more often by his teammates.
Many players struggle to adapt to a new country — having to contend with a new language, new colleagues and an unfamiliar footballing culture can understandably be overwhelming.
Minamino’s effort has been immaculate in this regard — following his Premier League debut against Wolves, the German described his acquisition as being exactly as the club expected, referring to the player as “a super boy and a super player”.Embed from Getty Images
Players in the past have found it difficult to force themselves immediately into the starting line-up and have still gone on to achieve amazing things through good management and a positive attitude. A similar journey would be that of Andy Robertson — like Minamino, he joined the club in a deal seen to be too cheap for the player to succeed at the highest level.
The Scot was left waiting for his major breakthrough, initially playing the role of understudy to Alberto Moreno. Now, three years into his Liverpool career, Robertson is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest left-backs.
Since his debut Minamino has proven himself an intelligent footballer Highlighting his movement off the ball, there is definitely a player with a knowledge of the game, but it feels like there is a distinct lack of confidence to dictate his teammates and direct the ball where it should be going.
This is something that will come with time. On many occasions already he has shown he can find the pockets of space to move the play forward, but he must be more assertive and command the ball in order to make that movement worthwhile and play a major part in progressing the Liverpool attack.
On the ball, his ability is yet to be truly allowed to flourish in such limited time. Having said that, initial sightings suggest a tidy player who likes the ball to feet to work with and instigate attacks, which is certainly an encouraging trait.
Minamino will certainly surprise critics given a substantial opportunity to succeed. Fans simply need to be patient and have faith.
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