Reflecting on Takumi Minamino’s time at Liverpool

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When Liverpool signed Takumi Minamino in January 2020, activating his £7.5 million release clause, the deal was widely applauded. Signing a promising attacker for a relatively low fee meant the deal was seen as a low risk signing, with a potential high upside if Minamino could break his way into Liverpool’s first team.

The Red Bull clubs have a good track record for developing players, and their modern style means that their players should be a strong fit for Liverpool — who signed Naby Keïta from RB Leipzig a couple of years earlier — given Jürgen Klopp’s aggressive tactics, and the way in which his team press the opposition.

After signing for the club on January 1st, he didn’t have to wait long before making his debut. Liverpool fielded a rotated side for their FA Cup clash against Everton on January 5th, and Minamino started the game. He made his Premier League debut later that month, replacing Sadio Mané as Liverpool faced Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It was apparent from fairly early on that Minamino wasn’t going to displace Liverpool’s attacking trio — Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Mané had formed one of the most destructive attacks the competition had ever seen — but the plan was that Minamino’s versatility would allow him to become an ideal squad player, capable of being plugged into Klopp’s system as and when required, and filling a hole. In theory, Minamino’s presence in the squad meant Klopp could rest and rotate his attacking stars, without Liverpool’s Premier League winner betting odds suffering as a result.

Minamino is a hard worker when his team don’t have the ball, perfect for Klopp’s Liverpool, and flexible when they do have it. He’s able to carry the ball and create for the others, and is positionally versatile. Without being outstanding in any one particular area, he offered the possibility of being the ideal attacking squad player. A James Milner for Liverpool’s attack, to put it one way.

However, while nobody would criticise Minamino for a lack of effort, the drop off in quality between Liverpool’s starting attackers and the Japanese international was simply too great to be overcome. He had good moments, and it was clear to see how happy his teammates were for him when he scored his first league goal for the club. It was a cool finish saw him open the scoring in a 7-0 defeat of Crystal Palace, but the fact that the goal came in December, almost a whole year after he joined the club, underlined the fact that, in truth, he wasn’t likely to meet the standard required.

It was no real surprise to anyone involved when Minamino was loaned to Southampton shortly after. He scored on his debut, a 3-2 defeat to Newcastle United, and went on to feature for the Saints on 10 occasions in total, continuing his Liverpool form.

He spent the 2021-22 season at Anfield, and won the EFL Cup with the side, to go alongside his Premier League winner’s medal from the 2019-20 season, but he continued to be largely a rotational player. The arrival of Luis Díaz in the winter transfer window pushed Minamino further down the pecking order, and his departure in the summer was more or less an inevitability.

When he joined Monaco, it was no real surprise to see him leave the Merseyside club. Despite never hitting the heights that many would have hoped for, there’s no doubt that Minamino leaves Liverpool with good wishes, and plenty of gratitude for his service to the club.

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