Following around a week of speculation, Liverpool finally confirmed the signing of Japan international Takumi Minamino from RB Salzburg yesterday after triggering his release clause of £7.25m.
A relative unknown prior to his fantastic performance in Salzburg’s 4-3 defeat at Anfield back in October, Minamino has already been described by many as “the perfect Klopp player”.
So, what makes Minamino such an ideal fit for Liverpool’s system and are fans right to be excited about what is seemingly a shrewd piece of business?
On the surface, it’s clear why Minamino is perceived as a great signing: he’s a tactile presser of the ball with a good work rate, while his versatility gifts Klopp plenty of options. The 24-year-old tends to operate on the wing, making him an alternative to Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, while he can also be used in attacking midfield role due to Salzburg often reverting to a 4-2-2-2 diamond formation.
This isn’t even the extent of Minamino’s versatility; he regularly plays up top for Japan, with 6 goals in his last 5 international appearances. This seems to suggest he could be used in a similar ilk to Roberto Firmino, with his tendency to drop deep into midfield furthering these comparisons.
Despite this, you can’t really make a direct comparison between Minamino and any current Liverpool player. His versatility and dynamism has drawn similarities between Adam Lallana during the 2016/17 season; while these comparisons are somewhat apt, Minamino possesses the pace and finishing that Lallana lacked. With Lallana set to depart Anfield upon the expiry of his contract in the summer, it is undisputable that Minamino is a definite upgrade.
Potency in attack is also a clear strength to Minamino’s game. He’s managed to contribute 9 goals and 11 assists in all competitions so far this season, while since arriving in the Austrian Bundesliga in 2015, he’s been involved in more goals than any other player. Additional firepower, especially from a deeper role, would not go unmissed in this Liverpool side.
Something which may go under the radar is that Minamino has previously flourished alongside Naby Keita. Although they didn’t play long together at Salzburg, in the 2507 minutes they played with each other, Minamino had 11 goals and 6 assists, while Keita contributed 13 goals and 9 assists. With the Guinean on a fine run of attacking form, Minamino’s arrival will hopefully aid this even more.
Having been linked with big money swoops for the likes of Timo Werner and Jadon Sancho, Minamino may seem underwhelming in comparison; is the hype justified for a player who at 24 isn’t competing in one of Europe’s top five leagues?
Yet, go back and watch Minamino’s performance at Anfield and it’s clear we’ve unearthed a gem. It was arguably the best display at Anfield from an opposition player in years; tackles, driving at the defence, an assist, spinning Fabinho and a delightful volley that made Klopp smirk. That is a smirk that is now incredibly telling.
£7.25m in this market for a player who is probably worth three or four times that is incredible business. It didn’t go too badly for the last player who made his debut for us against Everton in a January FA Cup fixture, so let’s hope Minamino follows the same path.